Wednesday Briefing: Apple Leisure Group Sold, Carnival Tests New Dining Times

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The sale of Apple Leisure Group, Carnival’s new dining times and the close of a major airline merger are the top travel headlines to watch today. 

Private Equity Firms Buy Apple Leisure Group

Private equity firms KKR & Co. and KSL Capital Partners LLC have bought Apple Leisure Group, the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are reporting.  Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017, were not disclosed. 

The two companies bought Apple Leisure Group from Bain Capital Private Equity, according to Mergers & Acquisitions. KSL, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, targets investments in travel and leisure, including the Village Urban Resorts in the UK, the Belfry and the Miraval Resort & Spa in Tuscon, AZ. KKR is a global investment firm with investments in private equity, energy, infrastructure, real estate, credit and hedge funds. 

Apple Leisure Group owns AMResorts, which includes the Zoetry Welness & Spa Resorts, Secrets Resorts & Spas, Breathless Resorts & Spas, Dreams Resorts & Spas, Now Resorts & Spas, and Sunscape Resorts & Spas brands, as well as Apple Vacations, Travel Impressions,, Amstar, Worldstar and Unlimited Vacation Club

“We are pleased to be partnering with KKR and KSL for our next phase of growth,” said Alex Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group, in a written release. “They share our commitment to the vision of Apple Leisure Group as we continue to deliver great results to travelers, guests and hotel owners. We are extremely appreciative of Bain Capital Private Equity’s partnership and support in executing our growth mission and helping us strengthen our leadership position over the past four years.”

Carnival Cruise Line Tests New Dining Times

In cruise news, Carnival Cruise Line is testing a slightly tweaked set of dining times on the Carnival Glory and Carnival Conquest, Cruise Critic reports. Dining times on both ships will now be 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., instead of 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.. Additionally, passengers who show up more than 30 minutes late to set seating will be asked to eat in the buffet. Pending the outcome of the test, the changes could be rolled out to the other ships in Carnival’s fleet. 

Alaska Airlines, Virgin America Merger Closes

Finally, in air travel news, a major airline merger has come to pass with the official close of Alaska Airlines’ acquisition of Virgin America, the two airlines announced in a statement. 

The two airlines said they would spend the next year working to secure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification to allow the two airlines to operate as a single carrier, with regional sister carrier Horizon Air remaining on its own separate operating certificate. 

Alaska Air Group has a route network with nearly 1,200 daily flights to 118 destinations across the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba, with new daily flights to Orlando, Florida; Minneapolis; and Orange County, California from its San Francisco hub starting summer 2017 (new service available for sale December 21). Additionally, starting December 19, Virgin America Elevate members and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members will be able to earn rewards on each other's flights, and elite members will receive priority check-in and priority boarding on each other's flights.

The combined airline will maintain its corporate headquarters in Seattle, with hubs in Seattle, Portland, Anchorage, San Francisco and Los Angeles — a lineup that the airline said gives it the most West Coast hubs of any airline. 

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