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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Enlightened Traveler: The Dorchester On My Mind

After having been stranded, treated no better than rubbish, then left to fend for himself for two nights in London in May by British Airways on an impossibly overcrowded holiday weekend – trust me, this was not a pleasure trip – The Luxurist longs to return to the land of Tennyson and Tesco for a more gratifying visit.

This was not a planned stopover. The Luxurist and his lovely Luxurista were simply transferring  through Heathrow en route from the Cannes film festival to Hollywood, where, like British Airways,  they do not bother even to try to fake sincerity.

British Airways wants you to think you'll enjoy flying with them. Don't you believe it!

Of course, even Hollywood has its virtues. Heads roll when executives fail to perform.

Not so at British Airways. On a day when Heathrow's runways were closed for four hours and some 225,000 passengers were flying in, out or through the airport, the world's largest airline managed to bring unimagined grief to many of them.

Passenger service failures were massive.

Flights were not automatically rebooked. Why, The Luxurist wonders, do they ask for your mobile phone number and e-mail address if they are not going to use them to notify you of your new flight information?

Instead, customers were made to wait in lines of up to nine hours, were given phone numbers for rebooking only to find that the airline hung up on them repeatedly ("Too many calls now. Goodbye!") and then closed the switchboard entirely at 8 PM.

Nine hour lines at Heathrow, courtesy of British Airways

Presumably this was done so that BA's employees could enjoy the start of their holiday weekend.

Never mind those pesky 225,000 paying passengers, who not only had no flights but no place to stay either. British Airways handed everyone a hastily reproduced piece of paper stating, bluntly, that they were not going to find hotels for anyone.

Apparently you have a better chance of being treated with care if you work for British Airways than if you buy a ticket from the company.

And they say that there is no justice in Hollywood!

But I digress. British Airways was guilty of many more depredations on this dreadful weekend. There will be much more to read on why The Luxurist will never, ever fly British Airways again in a future post.

Watch for it if you want to spare yourself unfathomable misery in the future.

Also read: Bellagio's New Caviar Buffet – A Good Value Or A Waste of Money?

Back to the topic at hand: London's fabulous Dorchester hotel.

The one and only Dorchester hotel

The Luxurist was amused to read in hotelchatter.com and elsewhere on the web that The Dorchester  is offering a side-by-side tasting of all four Remy Martin Louis XIII cognacs – Louis XIII, Louis XIII Black Pearl, Louis XIII Rare Cask 43,8 – for a mere $3,200 per person.

This is what you call a stiff drink, indeed.

It's not the cost that concerns The Luxurist. The cognacs are très rare. By all accounts they may well be worth every penny. And, after all, if you have it, what's money for?

The Luxurist simply wants to know why a great hotel like The Dorchester must resort to publicity gimmicks to promote itself.
Publicity is not necessarily a bad thing – unless, as Jane Russell opined, you don't have any.

That is not to say, as many do, that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Contrarian that he is, The Luxurist does not subscribe to this tired adage.

Same price. Which would you choose?

He also does not believe in pointless publicity.

Gimmicks, even high class ones, will not compel customers to stay at any hotel, or to return if they have found their stay lacking.

Enlightened travelers do not want stunts. They require friendly, unobtrusive, exceptional service, posh yet comfortable accommodations, good food, a bit of exclusivity, and, in general the feeling that they are being cared for at all times.*

This is exactly what The Dorchester has offered The Luxurist on his several stays there.

Let's do the math. Would you rather treat yourself to a round of costly cognac, or, for the same money enjoy a memorable five-night stay at one of the world's top hotels?

The choice is yours.

*None of these superlatives applies to British Airways. But, again, I digress. Watch this space.

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