In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Mallorca

    Mallorca - new flights from Yorkshire

    Wizz plans clutch of new flights

    24 days ago

    Four new air services from Doncaster-Sheffield are among six routes planned by the seemingly ever expanding low fare airline Wizz. In April the central and east European operators will launch summer only flights from the Yorkshire airport to Mallorca, Dalaman in Turkey, Bourgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast and the Greek island of Crete. They will start respectively on 2 and 4 April and 26 and 28 May. All will depart twice a week. And starting on 2 April, Wizz will fly four times a week from Gatwick to Malaga and twice a week from Luton to Dalaman. Owain Jones, managing director of Wizz Air UK said though few people were able to travel at present “we’re looking ahead to brighter times”.

  • Eurostar

    COVID chaos - travel bans relaxed

    25 days ago

    France, Belgium and the Netherlands have relaxed their bans on travellers from the UK who can provide proof of negative PCR tests within the previous 72 hours. Eurostar services began running again to Paris, Lille and Brussels today. Belgium will admit only citizens and residents “with a few limited exceptions”, and the operators said onward travel to other countries from Brussels would be banned until 31 December

    Flights to France were reported to be taking off again. But more than 50 other countries continued to bar arrivals from the UK following the weekend warnings that a new variant of COVID-19 was much more transmissable than the previously prevailing virus.

    The latest restrictions prompted Jet2 to suspend flights and holidays to the Canaries, Turkey and Madeira. Departures to Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife, Antalya (Turkey) and Funchal (Madeira) have been grounded up to and including 5 January. And those to Fuerteventura are suspended up to and including 7 February. In a statement the company said customers in the affected resorts should continue to enjoy their holidays.: “We are continuing to operate a programme of inbound flights, and we will be in contact with customers to advise them.”

    The last minute chaos has brought confusion, anger and disappointment for people hoping to get away for the festive period, though those in the new Tier 4 areas had been told they should not travel abroad in any case. British Airways, for example ,was fielding a torrent of inquiries as its staff laboured to keep up with events. And with some experts predicting that the new restrictions could last through the winter there will be deepening concern over lingering hopes that what is left of the winter sun and ski season may still be saved.

    Travel trade organisation ABTA said: “As the UK Government is currently advising against all but essential travel to the majority of destinations, there will be significantly fewer people taking package holidays than usual at this time of year, although the introduction of the ban for Madeira will affect some packages. The majority of people affected will be those who have booked arrangements despite the advice against travel, many of whom will be travelling to see friends and family for the festive period.” It said people booked on packages to countries which had banned visitors from the UK and those booked on cancelled flights should be offered a choice of refunds or re-booking. Travellers with rail, ferry or accommodation reservations should check the terms and conditions of their bookings.

  • Ski hols

    Ski holiday cancelled? Image © Roger Bray

    Crisis prompts holiday credit note extension

    25 days ago

    The new Tier Four restrictions and the threat that they might be extended across the country has prompted the Civil Aviation Authority to delay the end of refund credit notes. The move if an ATOL protected holiday is cancelled because of the COVID crisis up until 31 January – and you agree to accept such a note as payment for a future trip – you will be guaranteed a refund should the tour operator goes bust before you can use it.

    The Authority had planned to withdraw financial protection for such notes on 31 December. Its decision was thought to have been made under pressure from the Treasury amid fears that if more ATOL holdings collapse before travel starts to take off again, part of the cost of refunds – and possibly bringing home tourists abroad at the time – could fall on the taxpayer. Most people living in Tier Four areas are now forbidden to travel abroad. This, and the new ban on visitors from the UK that was imposed by dozens of countries at the weekend, has clearly affected official thinking.

    Paul Smith, the CAA’s consumer director, said “We are aware of the challenges the travel industry is facing, and we have therefore taken the exceptional decision to extend ATOL protection for refund credit notes issued up to 31 January 2021. Consumers should feel confident accepting refund credit notes for cancelled ATOL protected bookings where the option is suitable for them. While ATOL holders are able to continue offering refund credit notes in good faith, they must also offer consumers the option of a full cash refund.”

  • Four seasons bangkok

    New luxury hotel for Bangkok

    26 days ago

    Bangkok has a new luxury hotel. The 299 room Four Seasons stands on the bank of the Chao Phraya river and has its own dock, from which guests may take taxis to the Thai capital’s floating markets and kitchens. Rooms have views of the river or surrounding gardens. The property is on Charoenkrung Road, an area of narrows streets and alleys which is undergoing a change as contemporary eateries and designer retail mixes with traditional street food vendors and crafts people. It has three restaurants, offering Cantonese, Italian and French cooking, and a pastry shop and café. Still to open is its wellness centre, spread across there floors and incorporating a gym, a 30 metre pool a and a spa suite.

  • Poesia

    Poesia - will sail from Genoa. Image courtesy MSC Cruises

    MSC launches major new cruise programme

    27 days ago

    A major programme for summer and autumn 2022 has been unveiled by MSC Cruises, with itineraries departing from ports in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. In the clear hope that by then coronavirus will just be a nasty memory the company plans to operate seven night itineraries by ten ships in the Mediterranean, sailing from Genoa, Venice, Barcelona and Trieste. In Autumn there will be a range of longer cruises from Genoa, including one into the Atlantic – taking in Lisbon and Casablanca – and one to Rome, Cyprus, and the Israeli port of Haifa, allowing visits to the Holy Land. In Northern Europe five ships will operate cruises from two to 21 nights with departures from Southampton, Kiel, Warnemunde and Hamburg. In the Caribbean two vessels will operate cruises of various lengths from Miami and Port Canaveral. And MSC will deploy two ships in Asia for the first time – with details of itineraries to be announced later.

  • Rimini 3520839 1280

    Sismondo Castle: image by Viktor Levit from Pixabay

    Spring debut planned for Fellini museum

    30 days ago

    A museum dedicated to the late, great Italian film director Federico Fellini, which should have opened to mark the centenary of his birth in 1920, is now scheduled to open next spring in Rimini. The man behind masterpieces including 81/2, La Strada, Nights of Cabiria and the hugely successful but controversial La Dolce Vita, which was attacked by the Vatican but broke box office records and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, was born and went to school in the Adriatic coastal city. The museum will be housed in Rimini’s Renaissance Sismondo Castle, the upper floors of the city’s art-nouveau Cinema Fulgor – where he watched films – and the 400 metres of outdoor space between them. Visitors will be able to attend film showings, watch multimedia presentations and see costumes worn in his movies, posters and other memorabilia.

  • Namibia 2049203 1280

    Image by Martin Redlin from Pixabay

    Namibia taken off travel corridors list

    about 1 month ago

    Namibia has been removed from the Government’s travel corridor list. From 4am on Saturday (19 December) anyone returning from the that Southern African country of spectacular, red, desert dunes, remote coastal areas and rich wildlife will have to self isolate. Also taken off the list, with the same deadline, are Uruguay and the US Virgin Islands.

  • Ba

    British Airways to cut long haul routes

    about 1 month ago

    British Airways is to suspend more than a dozen long haul routes next spring as the pandemic continues to ravage international travel. Destinations affected include the Seychelles, Lima, Charleston, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Osaka, Durban and Calgary. It was not clear whether Calgary flights would be restored in time for the 2021-22 ski season in resorts such as Baff, Lake Louise and Fernie. The airline will not resume flights to Sydney or Bangkok until the beginning of the winter season at the end of next October. A BA spokesman said: “We are sorry that, like other airlines, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule. We will be in touch with any customers whose flights are affected and advise customers to check ba.com for the latest flight information.”

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    Antalya: image by Erik Karits from Pixabay

    Gatwick and Manchester to get new Turkey flights

    about 1 month ago

    SunExpress plans to launch flights to Antalya from Manchester and Gatwick next March. The airline, a joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, will operate twice a week from the former, and three times a week from the latter, starting on 26 and 28 March respectively. From late May it will fly daily from Gatwick and four times weekly from Manchester. Antalya is on Turkey’s southwest coast and is the country’s fifth biggest city by population.

  • Air pax

    Airlines face refund refusal probe

    about 1 month ago

    Airlines that have refused refunds when the Government has banned overseas travel for non essential reasons are being investigated by the Competition and Market Authority. The Authority says it is “aware that, in some cases where flights were not cancelled, customers were not offered refunds even though they could not lawfully travel. Instead, many were offered the option to rebook or to receive a voucher”. In a statement it says it recognises the airline sector is under strain because of the pandemic. “However, it is concerned that certain airlines may have breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds, leaving people unfairly out of pocket, and has therefore opened an investigation to examine the matter further.” The Authority stresses it should not be assumed that any airline has breached consumers’ rights and says that, ultimately ,only a court can decide. Its chief executive Andrea Coscelli says: “We will be carefully analysing all the evidence to see whether any airlines breached consumers’ legal rights by refusing people cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully take.”

  • A k

    Image courtesy Abercrombie & Kent

    Holiday operators to pay part of test cost

    about 1 month ago

    Luxury sister tour operators Abercrombie & Kent and Cox & Kings are offering to make a £50 contribution towards a COVID-19 test taken by customers travelling with them next year. Though there is no knowing whether or what kind of quarantine rules will still apply as 2021 gets underway, under current requirements travellers returning from countries off the Government’s travel corridor list may take a pre-arranged test ob their fifth full day of self isolation. If the result come back negative they are free of the restriction. The firms have already introduced a flexible offer for customers booking by February. They will be able to change or postpone their booking until 15 days before departure provided they travel by 30 November next year.

  • Atol

    Tour firms face credit note ban

    about 1 month ago

    Tour operators will no longer be permitted to issue credit notes instead of straight refunds for cancelled holidays after 31 December, according to travel industry sources. The ban has been imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority. It is understood the Authority has come under pressure from the Treasury amid concerns that if more ATOL holding operators collapse in the New Year, the cost of refunding passengers – or bringing home the relatively few likely to be abroad when a company fails – could fall on partly on the taxpayer. This is because the back up Air Travel Trust Fund, which relies on a £2.50 levy on package holidays to ensure affected consumers get their money back when firms go under, has come under strain for two reasons: it has been depleted by recent failures and the levy income usually calculated to top it up has slowed dramatically with the drying up of overseas travel.

    Credit notes issued before 31 December will remain valid. But there are fears that many disappointed consumers may have accepted notes valid until next spring, confident that travel bans would be over by then. They are entitled to exchange them for their money back at any time. On leading industry expert fears that if the pandemic has not eased significantly by March, say, there could be flood of such demands, putting yet more heavy pressure on company balance sheets.

    It is unlikely any action will be taken to stop the controversial practice by scheduled airlines of issuing vouchers redeemable for future flights. EU regulations oblige carriers cancelling flights to refund passengers with seven days if they demand their money. Travellers are under no obligation to accept vouchers. Though it appeared unlikely – at the time of writing – that the UK would diverge from such consumer law immediately after the end of the Brexit transmission period on 31 December the future remained obscured by a fog of uncertainty.

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    Sao Miguel

    Direct Azores flights to resume

    about 1 month ago

    Direct flights between London and the Azores are scheduled to take off again next summer. STA Azores Airlines plans to operate three times a week to the mid-Atlantic archipelago. Starting on 3 June, flights between Gatwick and the capital, Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel, will depart on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. The Azores offer excellent whale watching, with sightings relayed from observation posts originally built when whaling was a major industry there, hiking – notable the volcano climb on the island of Pico – and the spectacle of lanes lined with vivid hydrangeas. Tour operator Sunvil is offering a week at the Do Colegio Hotel in Ponta Delgada from £886 a head – based on two sharing and including flights, transfers and a half day “Azores for Foodies” tour promising numerous chances to taste local specialities

  • Curacao 921699 1280

    Curacao: image by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

    Curacao move for Sandals

    about 1 month ago

    All inclusive resort operator Sandals is to move into the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. The adult couples only complex will initially comprise 350 rooms ranged along Spanish Water Bay. Formerly the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, it will undergo a complete revamp, starting next year. The work is expected to include installation of “expansive” pools and a variety of upmarket dining options. Guests will have access to a neighbouring championship golf course. Curacao, not on the milk run for UK visitors to the area, is in the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean, some 40 miles north of the Venezuelan coast. It is popular with scuba divers and snorkellers, as some reefs are accessible without a boat.

  • Air terminal

    Quarantine for arriving travellers cut

    about 1 month ago

    Quarantine for Britons returning from countries not on the Government’s travel corridor list will be cut to ten days from 14. The move will come into effect on Monday (14 December) and will apply to anyone currently self isolating. Already announced in Wales, it will cover all four home nations. Though they vary slightly in the countries on their own travel corridor lists. A statement from the four chief medical officers said that after reviewing the evidence they were now confident they could cut the number of days.

    While the change represents a small crumb of comfort for the beleaguered travel industry the new quarantine period is still longer than that indicated by the Government Task Force on Travel. Reporting last month it described a self isolation period of at least 5 days, must be a "core tenet core tenet to reduce the risk of onward transmission sufficiently once the traveller is free to mix in the local community.”

  • Dst uzbekistan ext 32965

    Uzbekistan - image courtesy Saga

    Saga sees pent up adventure surge

    about 1 month ago

    News of successful vaccination trials has sparked a surge of interest in travel to far flung destinations, according to the over-50s specialist Saga. The firm reported increases of 78% and 36% in traffic respectively to its long haul Traveller’s World web pages and online brochure in a single week. Its most visited pages include thpse detailing tours of India’s Golden Triangle, explorations of New Zealand and Uzbekistan, and travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Following a year where travel has been restricted, it says, many are now starting to make plans to explore the world again, “with lockdown seeming to have ignited people’s sense of adventure”. With demand growing, Saga has launched a “Once-in-a-lifetime” collection of escorted trips to destinations as diverse as Petra, the Great Barrier Reef, Borneo – to catch a glimpse of its orangutans – and Machu Picchu.

  • Lanzarote 342824 1280

    Lanzarote

    No deal risk casts black cloud over travel

    about 1 month ago

    Hopes that winter sunshine and ski holidays might see a revival after he festive season now hang on the UK reaching a last ditch deal over Brexit or a sharp reduction in COVID-19 infections. After a desperate year for leisure travel, the travel industry may be forgiven for feeling water is about to poured on drowning people. AITO, the specialist tour operators’ organisation, expressed its “despair” at the prospect. The pall of gloom will hardly be helped by the Government’s decision to remove the Canaries from its travel corridor list, meaning passengers returning from the islands after 4am on Saturday (12 December) will have to self isolate.

    Under Brussels’ current coronavirus restrictions only a few countries with very low rates are exempt from an overall ban on non essential visits from outside the EU and European Economic Area. The UK is exempt only until the end of the transmission period on 31 January. The EU has indicated that there are no plans to change that. Ski holidays to Norway, which have proved attractive because the country’s low rates mean passengers returning to the UK do not – currently at least – need to self isolate – may also be under threat. According to the Financial Times the Oslo Government has confirmed it will also bar British visitors from 1 January.

    Meanwhile the European Commission has announced a contingency plan for no deal that allows for the maintenance of “certain air services” between the UK and the EU for the first six months of next year. It was not immediately clear what this would mean. It is possible existing services will allowed to continue but the launch of new routes will be halted. Unless London reaches a rapid new air services deal with the EU it is probable the Government will need to negotiate bilateral air agreements with individual member states.

  • Embraer 190

    BA to launch Southampton flights

    about 1 month ago

    British Airways is to launch summer holiday flights from Southampton. From 1 May until 31 October its BA CityFlyer subsidiary will operate up to 17 weekend services to eleven destinations in Spain, Portugal, Greece, France, Germany and Scotland. They are: Malaga, Faro and Palma, Florence, Mykonos, Ibiza, Bergerac (for the Dordogne), Limoges, Nice, Berlin and Edinburgh. Flights will be by CityFlyer’s fleet of Embraer 190 aircraft.

  • L plagne

    Another ski holiday firm goes under

    about 1 month ago

    COVID has claimed the scalp of another ski holiday operator. Wimbledon based Alpine Elements, which sold chalet and hotel breaks in France and Austria, has gone into administration with around 1000 ATOL bookings covered by the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL scheme. The company was reported to be unable to refund customers who had suffered cancellations last winter. This was partly because it had not received money back from suppliers it had paid in advance and partly because, with with French resorts in the former not scheduled to open until after the festive period Austria still off the Government’s travel corridor list it had been hit – like all wintersports operators – by a lack of revenue. However, though it was overwhelmed by immediate financial problems it was understood that director James Hardiman had been able to find backing to buy back the brand in a move to revive it later.

    The CAA said it was aware of a number of consumers whose bookings had been cancelled by Alpine Elements as a result of government advice or flight cancellations. Those who had accepted valid refund credit notes or were due refunds for the cancellation of their ATOL protected booking could submit claims through Authority’s online portal. Customers who had booked ATOL protected packages might find their air tickets remained valid and decide they would still travel. If they were asked to pay again for services such as accommodation they could still claim back the cost under the scheme.

    Alpine Elements also sold summer holidays in the Alps, plus yachting and Greek beach club holidays.

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    Image by Queenie Zhu from Pixabay

    Luton gets new budget flights

    about 1 month ago

    Despite the continuing pandemic, low cost airline Wizz continues to expand. Tomorrow (11 December) the central and east European carrier is scheduled to start operating the first of two new routes from Luton Airport. It will fly twice a week to Gibraltar, with departures on Fridays and Mondays. And on 15 December it will launch Tuesday and Saturday services from Luton to Madeira. At the time of writing both destinations were on the Government’s travel corridor list, meaning returning passengers do not automatically need to self isolate. Visitors heading for Madeira are required to take a test 72 hours before departure and upload or print the result. They are subject to a health check on arrival.