In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
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    Which? slams sky high insurance costs for silver travellers

    about 23 hours ago

    Over 80s pay more than six times as much for travel insurance than those aged 50 – 54, according to a new survey from Which? A typical 15 day premium jumps from £30 for a 64 year old to £62 for someone aged 70, even if they have no pre-existing health problems to declare. Quotes for 400 single trip policies from 130 insurers showed the average climbed after that to £83 for those aged 75-79 and £111 for 80-84 year olds. Even more alarming, it says, a comparison of over 100 quotes for European cover showed policies for customers in their 60s and 70s from some companies specialising in the silver travel market could be pricier than those from non specialist insurers. Which? quotes one traveller “with some medical issues” who was quoted £774 in 2017 for worldwide annual cover excluding the US, Canada and the Caribbean. The following year the premium had risen to £1602 and this September it had rocketed to £2,806 – for no reason except that she was a bit older. The consumer watchdog also notes older travellers pay higher premiums for staying loyal to the same insurers, perhaps for fear they may not be able to get cover elsewhere. It notes than the choice of annual insurance sinks to only 30% of those on offer when travellers hit the 80 threshold. Older travellers can face doesn’t stop at insurance, however. Which? Travel editor Rory Boland says: “While many 70-year-olds might accept they would have to pay more for their travel insurance than someone who is 25, perfectly healthy older people are missing out on travelling in their golden years due to spiralling premiums. “The travel industry must urgently address this problem and stop penalising older generations who are more active and more determined than ever before. “If you’re struggling to find travel insurance or the quotes you are getting are too high, you can try using an insurance broker. They will offer advice and search the market to find the right policy for you at the most competitive price available.

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    Image courtesy Flybe

    Flights boost for Southend

    2 days ago

    Another big increase in flights from Southend has been unveiled. Regional airline Flybe – soon to be rebranded as Virgin Connect – is to launch six new routes from the airport. In tandem with its partner Stobart Air it will operate to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast City, Newcastle, Jersey and the Isle of Man. The airline, which will also start daily services from Manchester to Stuttgart, already flies from Southend to Caen, Rennes, Groningen and Newquay. It’s not all good news for the Essex airport, however. Scottish airline Loganair has announced it will end flights to the airport to Glasgow. It cites a glut of low cost competition between Glasgow and London. The last flight on the route will depart on 3 January. Passengers booked to travel later are being offered refunds or the option of seats on other airlines.

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    Image courtesy Kafunta Safaris

    Wild dogs thrive again in Zambian park

    5 days ago

    Zambia’s wildlife rich South Luangwa National Park is now claimed to be the best place in Africa to see wild dogs, among the continent’s most endangered species. Thanks to a major conservation effort there are now around 350 adults and young living the Luangwa River Valley, which is noted for unforgettable walking safaris with expert operators such as Remote Africa and Robin Pope. Loss of habitat was a prime reason for the decline in numbers. Wild dogs, with their distinctive colouring, need a huge range on which to hunt prey including zebra and impala. Coupled with tighter security, the work of Conservation South Luangwa and the Zambian Carnivore programme has resulted in less snaring. If a lead dog dies or is hurt the entire pack can split up.

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    Image by Jolyne D from Pixabay

    New online cruise guide will keep travel agents clued up

    6 days ago

    Your local High Street travel agent may now be better informed about cruising. Agents selling cruise holidays for the first time – or those who just want to sell more – can access a new online guide to facts such as new ships, which vessels will depart from UK ports next year, details of international ports and those closest to major European attractions – plus expeditions cruises, who operates then and the best times of year to take them. The guide comes from the UK and Ireland branch of the Cruise Lines International Association, which promises it will be updated through the year.

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    Namibian safaris by e-bike launched

    7 days ago

    E-biking holidays in Namibia have been launched by a UK tour operator as the popularity of battery assisted pedal power breaks new bounds. Inverness based H+I Adventures promises the possibility of spotting wildlife including giraffe, zebra and oryx from the saddle, cycling along the Skeleton Coast and sleeping under the spectacular southern stars. In this case we’re talking E-MTBs (electrically assisted mountain bikes). The holiday is designed for what the firm calls Novice+ riders. You don’t have to be a downhill racer but you do need at least a year’s experience riding one (or a non electric mountain bike) off road, spending 3-4 hours in the saddle at a time and “aspiring” to ride more challenging terrain during the trip. There are two departures, on 9 August and 4 October next year. Prices of the 11 day holidays start at £3500 for each of two sharing, That covers accommodation and meals, mostly in farmhouse and lodges, and luxury camping. There’s an extra £600 a head for rental of E-MTBs with fat tyres and international flights are not included.

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    42 The Calls

    Touch of Venice as Leeds hotel gets revamp

    8 days ago

    Guests at a Leeds hotel may soon be able to travel there from the station in the Yorkshire equivalent of a Venice motoscafo. A five minute cruise to the door on the River Aire is one of the innovations planned for 42 The Calls by owner Simon Pollard as he prepares to transform the property with a multi million pound revamp. The riverside hotel, converted from an 18th century corn mill, first opened in the 1990s, preserving some of the building’s original details. Mr Pollard, a local entrepreneur, bought it after it went into administration in February last year. Subject to planning permission he plans to create a five star property with 29 rooms and eight suites and a rooftop champagne lounge, reached by a glass lift on the outside of the building. It will have two other bars, one part café, and a restaurant. At the time of writing bookings were available via its website for stays until 23 December. It is hoped the hotel will re-open after its rebirth in December next year. Guests who prefer a road transfer from the station will be able to order a Rolls Royce instead.

  • Us homeland

    US considers self security checks for air passengers

    9 days ago

    Travellers at US airports may soon be able to avoid being patted down or undergoing other secondary checks by solving their own problems if they set off metal detection alerts. The Department of Homeland Security is reported to be considering passenger self screening as a way of speeding up the security process. According to Air Transport World magazine, the idea is to combine X-ray machines with automated security lanes. The system would check suspicious concealed items and provide passengers who set off alarms with instant feedback. They would then be able to remove anything that triggered the alarm. The system would free personnel for other tasks and reduce congestion, the DHS believes. The Department is currently gathering opinion from airports, airlines and other interested parties.

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    image by Luc Viatour/

    Ryanair adds new Southend flights

    12 days ago

    Bergerac, in the Dordogne, will be one of three new destinations from Southend operated by Ryanair next summer. The low cost airline will fly there three times a week. The other additions are Marseille, and Girona in Spain. It will operate twice a week to both. Services to Bucharest, Venice Treviso and Vilnius – capital of Lithuania – will be extended through the summer with five, four and three weekly round trips respectively. The moves bring to 16 the airline’s total number of routes from the airport.

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    St Basil's Cathedral by Zeynel Cebeci via Wikimedia Commons

    Hotline help for Moscow tourists launched

    13 days ago

    Tourists in Moscow can now call a hotline to information on what to do in emergency, for example, how to use the city’s underground trains, for example, how to get to places of interest or where to hire a bicycle. A call centre set up with the support of the Moscow Tourism Committee will be able to provide addresses and opening hours of embassies. Assistance is currently available only in Russian and English but other languages will be added in future. Visitors can dial 122 from mobile phones in the city and the surrounding region.

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    Limeni village in Mani Region, Peloponnese

    Jet2 ups Greek holiday choice

    15 days ago

    A substantial increase in flights and package holidays to Greece has been unveiled by budget airline Jet2 and its tour operation. From 3 May until 1 November the operator will fly from Manchester and Stansted to the island of Lesvos and to Kalamata, jumping off point for the Mani peninsula in the Peloponnese. Flights will depart for both destinations twice a week from the former and once to the latter. Earlier the company had announced it would start offering flights and packages next summer to Skiathos, another Greek island, with two flights a week from Manchester and Stansted and one from Birmingham. Jet2 Holidays is the UK’s second biggest tour operator.

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    Sharm El-Sheik by cpadula [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

    Sharm el-Skeikh return for TUI

    16 days ago

    Britain’s biggest tour operator, TUI will start selling package holidays to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt again on Thursday (7 November). The move come hard on the heels of the Government’s decision to end its four year long ban on holiday flights there, which was introduced after the bombing of a Russian Airbus not long after its departure from the Red Sea resort. TUI will start flying in February from Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester. Departures from Bristol and Doncaster-Sheffield will be available for next summer. Resorts including TUI Magic Life Sharm el -Sheikh and Reef Oasis Blue Bay wil be on sale, with more to be announced later.

  • Masterchef

    Masterchef star helps launch new foodie breaks

    19 days ago

    Tour firm Authentic Adventures has teamed up with Masterchef presenter Greg Wallace to launch range of short breaks combining cookery classes with experiences such as a hunt for porcini mushrooms in the Apennines. In Sicily customers will get a lesson in making traditional marzipan fruits from the monks of San Francesco, see mozzarella being made and follow a walk through lemon groves with a taste of freshly made limoncello. A break in Bologna will include a truffle hunt, pasta making and an ice cream workshop, in southern France there will be a cookery class in Aix-en-Provence and a demonstration of goat cheese making, and in Thessaloniki guests will visit a saffron farm and indulge in what is described as “a fabulous seafood dinner”. Led by local experts the four or five day breaks cost from £995 to £1375, including flights from London.

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    Edinburgh gets new Poland, Hungary and Romania flights

    20 days ago

    New flights to Poland, Hungary and Romania are set to take off from Edinburgh. Fast growing Wizz Air will launch its new operation from the Scottish capital tomorrow with a four times a week service to Warsaw. On Saturday the airline will start operating to the Polish port city of Gdansk and Budapest, with three weekly departures to both cities and to Bucharest twice a week. Meanwhile Air India has started flying three times a week from Stansted to the Indian city of Amritsar, using a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The Sikh holy city of Amritsar is in the northwest Indian state of Punjab. It is home to Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple and was the scene of the notorious Jallianwala Bagh massacre during a period of unrest over demands for Indian political autonomy in 1919, when British officer Acting Brigadier General Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on a dense crowd which had defied a ban on public gatherings.

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    Ben Nevis (courtesy Shearings)

    New UK walking packages launched

    21 days ago

    Coach holiday specialist Shearings has launched a new programme of five day UK walking breaks for next year. Each includes details of routes ranging in difficulty from the South Downs Way between Eastbourne to Alfriston to the tougher challenges of Helvellyn in the Lake District and Ben Nevis. Prices start at £249 per person and include hotel accommodation with half board, packed lunches and coach travel from a variety of pick up points.

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    How The Londoner will look

    June opening set for London’s “super boutique” hotel

    22 days ago

    Billed as “the world’s first super boutique hotel”, The Londoner is scheduled to open next June in the capital’s Leicester Square. And with six levels underground it will also be one of the world’s deepest buildings. Flagship property for Edwardian Hotels London, it will have 350 rooms including 35 suites, a reminder that the term “boutique” now reflects style and not necessarily scale. There will be a rooftop bar and the subterranean floors will house a luxury spa. Though the hotel is pitched strongly at business travellers and organisers of meetings and other corporate events its size and prime location in the heart of London suggest it will also be in the market for weekend leisure breaks.

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    Harbour Air seaplane

    Seaplanes could go electric

    23 days ago

    Vancouver’s characteristic seaplanes could soon be powered by electricity. As green pressure grows to restrict the amount we fly, Harbour Air, which operates scheduled and sightseeing services, says it plans to convert its first aircraft, a six passenger DHC-2 Beaver, to carry out the first flight teats later this year. It has unveiled a partnership with electric engine manufacturer magNix, whose CEO Roei Ganzarski notes that in 2018, 75% of flights worldwide were over distances of 1000 miles or less. “We see tremendous potential for electric aviation to transform this heavily trafficked ‘middle mile’ range.” Harbour Air bills itself as North America’s biggest seaplane airline. It began as a service for the British Columbia forestry industry and now has over 40 aircraft operating up to 300 flights a day and carrying some 500,000 passengers a year.

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    Arizona: spectacular stargazing deck opens

    26 days ago

    Visitors can get detailed views of planets and see more of star fields, nebulae and far galaxies using six advanced telescopes at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. The 4300 sq ft Giovale Open Deck Observatory promises “a viewing experience that goes far beyond seeing faint smudges of light”. Among the telescopes is an 8in refractor for close up views of the Moon, planets and dense globular star clusters and a 32in reflector with “a gargantuan quartz mirror”, allowing visitors to see the detailed structure of nebulae and galaxies. Besides its telescopes, the observatory has a range of exhibits including an interactive “planisphere” that can be adjusted to show constellations at specific times and dates.

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    Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 by Masakatsu Ukon [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

    Air New Zealand to axe London flights

    27 days ago

    Air New Zealand is to axe London flights after nearly 40 years of operation. The daily service Between Heathrow andbAuckland via Los Angeles will continue until October next year. The airline said no tickets had been sold for flights after that. It will now launch services between Auckland and partner United Airlines’ New York hub. Acting chief executive officer Jeff McDowall says while it is hard to leave “such an iconic route” the airline needs to focus on the greatest opportunities for long term profitable growth. “Today Kiwis have more than twice the number of ways to fly to London than a decade ago and preferences have changed. Less than seven percent of all airline travellers between Auckland and London chose to fly via Los Angeles last year. At the same time, the Atlantic has become one of the most hotly contested routes in the world and Air New Zealand lacks the home market advantages and scale of the North American and European airlines we’re up against.”

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    New lift at Trysil (courtesy Ola Matsson and resort owner SkiStar)

    Airport to open close to Scandinavian ski slopes

    28 days ago

    A new airport serving ski resorts in Norway and Sweden is scheduled to open in December. Scandinavian Mountains Airport is only 10-25 minutes from the slopes of Sälen in Sweden, which comprises four ski areas with a combined total of over 100 runs, and 40 minutes from the Norwegian resort of Trysil. Starting on 28 December SAS will fly from Heathrow to the airport once a week on Saturdays. Flights will depart from London at 6.40am, arriving at 10am. UK bound services will leave at 11.25am, arriving at 12.55pm.

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    Nigel Mansell's car (courtesy Jakob Ebrey)

    Revving up on the grid – motorsport attraction opens this week

    29 days ago

    Motor racing fans will be able to exercise their inner Murray Walkers at the new “immersive” Silverstone Experience, which opens on Friday (25 October). They’ll be able to try commentating on a race. At a replica pit wall they they’ll have the option of trying out a wheel gun. Hands on activities will include taking the wheel of a 1940s Grand Prix car. The attraction is the culmination of a £20m project backed by Prince Harry, motor racing stars including Sir Jackie Stewart and – to the tune of £9.1m – by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is housed in a restored Second World War RAF hangar at the Northamptonshire circuit. Exhibits include Nigel Mansell’s 1992 British Grand Prix winning Williams and Barry Sheene’s 1979 Suzuki, with his leathers and helmet, modified to enable him to smoke while wearing it. Items from the British Racing Drivers’ Club archive include a drivers’ scrapbook from the 1940s and the 1992 signing on sheet with signatures including that of Ayrton Senna besides Mansell’s. Provided there is no racing associated activity taking place visitors will be able to follow the “Heritage Track Trail”, learning about the current circuit from information panels and walking on part of the old track. Tickets will be available for allocated time slots. For further information see the Silverstone Experience