Relax cancelled holiday refund regulations or holidaymakers will be hit harder, say ABTA

“Catastrophic damage to the UK travel industry, and widespread consumer detriment” – that is the warning from Abta about the effect of the coronavirus crisis on holiday firms.

The travel trade association’s chief executive, Mark Tanzer, is demanding government action to ease consumer regulations in favour of the industry.

Millions of holidays in March, April and May have been cancelled because of the worldwide shutdown. Under the Package Travel Regulations, travellers are entitled to a full refund within two weeks.

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Abta is asking for that time limit to be extended to four months, with government backing to protect holidaymakers if their travel firm goes bust. The association also wants a government-backed emergency consumer hardship fund to help fulfil refunds when hotels or airlines cannot or will not hand back money to tour operators.

Many travel businesses are refusing refunds to customers, often claiming incorrectly that the rules have been eased. They insist they are only obliged to provide travel vouchers.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, there have been no changes to consumer protection. But Mr Tanzer said there must be – as “normally successful travel businesses employing tens of thousands of people are facing bankruptcy”.

The Abta chief executive said: “The global pandemic has put enormous financial strain on tour operators and travel agents, with businesses seeing a collapse in sales while facing immediate repatriation costs and refund demands for cancelled holidays on a scale that is unmanageable. 

“Existing regulations are entirely unsuited to deal with this situation. These businesses are themselves waiting for refunds from hotels and airlines.

“Without this money, they simply do not have the cash to provide refunds to customers within 14 days. Customers with cancelled holidays will face lengthy delays in getting money back if travel firms are forced into bankruptcy.”

Abta has also called on the government to take “strong enforcement action” against airlines that withhold refunds due following the cancellation of flights.

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British Airways extends revolving credit facility

British Airways has extended its United States dollar secured revolving credit facility for one year.

The move, confirmed by International Airlines Group, will take effect from June 23rd.

The amount available under the extended facility is $1.38 billion.

Including the extended facility and some smaller additional facilities recently arranged, IAG has total undrawn general and committed aircraft financing facilities equivalent to €2.1 billion currently, compared to €1.9 billion at the end of 2019.

IAG has not drawn down on any of its facilities.

IAG continues to have strong liquidity with cash, cash equivalents and interest-bearing deposits of €7.2 billion as of March 27th.

Total cash and undrawn facilities are currently €9.3 billion.

In addition, the group is exploring a number of operational and treasury initiatives to improve further its cash flow and liquidity and will update the market in due course.

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Flybe administrators deny talks with government about nationalising airline

The administrators for Flybe have denied opening talks with the government about nationalising the failed airline.

Accountancy firm EY told The Independent there are “no discussions” happening on this front after it was widely reported that they had asked the government to contemplate buying the carrier out of insolvency to serve regional routes.

The Telegraph reported that Flybe was discussing the possibility of nationalisation with ministers, “according to industry sources”.

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However, an EY spokesperson said of the claims: “We continue to be open to approaches from all parties in order to realise returns for creditors. 

“At this time, we can confirm that there are no discussions between the Joint Administrators and Government about taking Flybe Limited out of insolvency.”

It comes after airlines and airports in the UK were told there wouldn’t be an industry-wide government bailout amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak wrote to aviation executives last week to say that he would only consider discussing measures to shore-up individual businesses as a “last resort”, and that this would be done on a case-by-case basis rather than applied across the board.

He repeated the package of measures announced on Friday that will be available to all British industries: postponing some rates and tax payments and paying the majority of employed staff members’ wages.

Sunak added that “taxpayer support would only be possible if all commercial avenues have been fully explored, including raising further capital from existing investors”. It followed the news that easyJet, among other airlines, was continuing to pay out dividends to shareholders, to the tune of £171m. The airline’s founder and largest shareholder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, received £60m.

Flybe was an early victim of the world-wide travel slow-down due to coronavirus, and officially ceased trading on 5 March.

Europe’s biggest regional airline was already struggling financially when the crisis hit, having been saved from the brink of insolvency several times prior.

The latest of these included controversial government intervention, with ministers agreeing the carrier could defer paying its air passenger duty until a later date.

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Luxury travel news this week: Coronavirus update – A Luxury Travel Blog

Here’s a round-up of luxury travel stories that have caught the eye this week. To make sure you receive these new weekly alerts in your web browser, please click on the red bell icon in the bottom right hand corner of the page and click ‘subscribe’ (works on desktop only – for other ways to subscribe, please click here). This will also alert you to any other posts on the blog. Should you wish, you can unsubscribe at any time, by clicking on the icon again and selecting ‘unsubscribe’.

Why the travel industry will be stronger and better after coronavirus

The travel industry has been decimated by the coronavirus — with estimates of over $24 billion lost as 825,000 jobs have been wiped out and more than 8.2 million visitors stay away from the United States alone. But with the storm clouds come a silver lining. Without the steady stream of cruise ships (some of the worst polluters in the world), the canals of Venice have become clear for the first time in centuries; pollution around the world has dropped dramatically and cities that had been trampled by overtourism are recovering… [read more]

Yes, we will travel again — here’s how and when to plan your next trip

These are not normal times. These are not normal times for the people of Wuhan, Milan, Seoul, New York, or any other region hit hard by COVID-19. And these times are not normal for those seeing the pandemic on the horizon, feeling the anxiety of battling the invisible enemy that’s rattling our world physically, emotionally, economically, and culturally. With the world under lockdown, and with increasingly stringent restrictions coming into place across North America, Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia, and beyond, many are asking how they can still plan travel — and have something hopeful to look forward to — in a time of ongoing and ever-accelerating shutdown… [read more]

Billionaires are chartering superyachts for months at a time to ride out the coronavirus pandemic

Billionaires are hoping to avoid the coronavirus pandemic by self-isolating on superyachts, The Telegraph’s Alan Tovey reports. Tovey spoke with Jonathan Beckett, the CEO of yacht broker Burgess. Beckett told The Telegraph that wealthy people are looking for ways to “weather the storm” and that a yacht “in a nice climate isn’t a bad place to self-isolate.” Large yachts have enough storage room to hold supplies that can last for months, Tovey notes, meaning the vessel can spend a longer amount of time at sea without docking. Of course, renting superyachts for months at a time is pricey, with some charging £100,000 ($118,944) a week plus crew costs and the largest of yachts costing over £500,000 (almost $600,000) a week… [read more]

Private-jet operators fly high, before requesting bailout

First, private-jet operators touted a surge in demand, sending them scrambling to keep up with the “biggest month” in their corporate histories. Then, within the same month, they were forced to turn customers away as governments around the world closed their borders, hotels shuttered, and citizens entered a surreal new reality: quarantine by mandate. Now, these symbols of high-flying wealth are joining America’s commercial airlines in asking for a $54 billion U.S. government bailout. Without hotel partnerships and open airstrips, they too are facing bankruptcy… [read more]

Coronavirus rocks the luxury hotel industry

The ever-expanding fallout surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has shocked the hotel industry, forcing dozens of the world’s most famous hotels to cease operations. While some closures are open-ended, others have been accompanied by a fixed reopening date, though uncertainty grows with each day as the outbreak spreads across the globe… [read more]

We really enjoy hearing from our readers and would love to hear your views on any of these stories! Please click on the comments below and share your thoughts. Thank you.

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How to explore the world from the comfort of your own home

The Armchair Traveller: Be dazzled by Italy and delve into Paris’s secret maze of tunnels – how to explore the world from the comfort of your home

  • The Secret Catacombs Of Paris podcast explores the city’s underground tunnels 
  • Remind yourself of famous sights with the World Landmarks 1000-piece puzzle 
  • Film fans can fall in love with the Italian island of Pantelleria in A Bigger Splash

The first guidebook from Rough Guides was published about 40 years ago (it covered Greece) but the company has long since had a brilliant website too. Click on it to read, in reverse order, the result of its 2020 readers’ poll into The 20 Most Beautiful Countries In The World.

Fabulous photographs accompany each entry, with Nepal at No 20, followed by Spain, Chile and Argentina. With its fascinating mix of the ancient and modern, Japan makes it into the top ten, and your travel bucket list will get longer as you scroll to the No 1 spot occupied, naturally, by Italy.

As a major tourist destination, France also makes it into the Rough Guides poll but if you think you know its capital, think again. The Secret Catacombs Of Paris podcast on the BBC Sounds app springs surprises from the start, revealing that the City of Light has a dark side: it’s built on more than 175 miles of tunnels, most of which are supposed to be off-limits.

The Secret Catacombs Of Paris podcast explores the French city’s tunnels. Pictured is a section of the mostly abandoned belt railway known as La Petite Ceinture

Host Jonathan Glancey speaks to a secretive band of Parisians who search for hidden entrances in train stations, cellars and sewers, and to police officers who patrol the tunnels beneath sensitive sites such as banks and prisons. Along the way Glancey reveals how the network was created and why it’s full of old bones.

Paris, of course, is home to some of the world’s greatest landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower. And if travel lovers want to remind themselves of various gems around the globe, they could order the 1,000-piece World Landmarks puzzle from Ravensburger.

Online retailers expect to sell a year’s-worth of jigsaws in a month as simple pleasures come back to the fore. This one includes nearly 100 cleverly hidden sights, including Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids of Egypt, Rio’s epic Christ the Redeemer and Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid.

Meanwhile, maps of the world jump off the page amid scarcely believable stories of political incompetence in Prisoners Of Geography: Our World Explained In 12 Simple Maps, by Tim Marshall.

He races across the globe, bringing whole regions to life and showing why so many national borders have proved to be disastrous mistakes. It’s lightly told, with chapters headings such as How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea?

And if you are home-schooling or compiling a family quiz, the book is a great way to catch up on geography and 20th Century history.

Film fans can fall in love with the Italian island of Pantelleria, pictured, in A Bigger Splash

If audiobooks are more your thing actress Julie Harris brings a very well-travelled Englishwoman to life as she reads West With The Night. It’s the memoir of Beryl Markham, who in 1936 became the first person to fly solo, non-stop, across the Atlantic from east to west. A genuine modesty pervades Beryl’s story as she roams the globe in the early days of air travel.

Film fans can fall in love with the sun-kissed but little-known Italian island of Pantelleria in A Bigger Splash, starring Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes.

In real life, the tiny volcanic island is where celebrities including Madonna, Sting and Giorgio Armani go on holiday.

This drama is an adult affair, with the stars behaving badly around the villa’s pool, but the scenes of slow-dancing in warm piazzas, alfresco meals by the water and a stunning, candle-lit restaurant in the hills are the stuff of holiday dreams.

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Four people dead and hundreds of Britons ‘stranded’ on cruise ship

More than 200 British people are aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Panama on which four passengers have died.

The MS Zaandam, a Holland America Line vessel, has been sailing north from Chile with 1,243 passengers and 586 crew on board. She is currently about 10 miles south of Panama City, according to the tracking service, Cruise Mapper.

The voyage was due to finish in San Antonio in Chile a week ago. But all ports along the coast of South America have refused permission for the ship to dock and disembark passengers.

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More than 140 people on board are suffering from “flu-like symptoms,” and at least two of them are reported to have tested positive for coronavirus.

Vanessa Lucas, from Stafford, tweeted: “My in-laws are stuck on the Zaandam cruise ship with four dead from Covid-19. We are extremely concerned and worried about them.”

Reuters is reporting that a ship’s officer made an on-board announcement on Friday that one passenger had died “several days” earlier followed by two deaths on Thursday and another in the early hours of Friday.

Deaths from natural causes are not unusual on cruise ships, because of the older age profile of passengers. But for four to pass away within a few days is very rare.

The cruise line’s original intention was to pass through the Panama Canal on Friday and reach Fort Lauderdale in Florida by Monday.

But the Panamanian authorities have so far refused to allow Zaandam to transit the canal between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

In a bid to secure permission, Holland America Line dispatched another cruise ship, MS Rotterdam, with crew only on board.

Passengers who are not displaying symptoms that could be coronavirus are being transferred from one ship to another.

Rotterdam will then seek permission to transit the Panama Canal and proceed to Fort Lauderdale – though there is concern in that city over whether the ship should be allowed to dock.

Zaandam is expected to sail northwest along the Pacific Coast to San Diego, where there is a big US naval base as well as cruise facilities.

The Independent has been told that a “secret” call was made by Zaandam at Guayaquil in Ecuador to take on essential supplies, but this report has not been independently substantiated.

No passengers have been allowed ashore since they left Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile three weeks ago.

Fort Lauderdale is also the destination for Coral Princess, whose passengers were refused permission to disembark at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

She is currently about 50 miles north of Fortaleza on the northeast coast of Brazil, making for Barbados. The ship will be calling at the island’s capital, Bridgetown, on the evening of Tuesday, 31 March for essential supplies.

A Princess Cruises statement said: “During the short time at the port, extra provisions will be brought onboard to keep all guests comfortable during the onward journey.”

Coral Princess is believed to have over 400 British passengers on board. There have been calls for UK citizens to be allowed to disembark in Barbados and be flown home on government-organised flights.

Debbie Betts tweeted the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab to demand action: “Come on FCO, you’re still sending flights to Peru and South Africa to bring English nationals home – what about sending a plane to Barbados to meet this ship and bring the Brits home?”

But Princess Cruises said: “No guests or crew will be permitted to disembark during this time.”

A lockdown and overnight curfew begins today in Barbados and will continue until 14 April. 

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World's First Virtual Coffee Festival Coming This Weekend

COVID-19-prompted stay-at-home orders and community lockdowns are robbing caffeine junkies everywhere of the daily pleasure of visiting their favorite coffeehouses and cafés. Of all the everyday rituals interrupted by the coronavirus, being denied your daily trip to Starbucks, etc. might be among the hardest to bear.

Living in the new normal, those who now find themselves forced to brew their own cuppa might develop a new appreciation for the processes that go into preparing that liquid pick-me-up that we all take for granted.

Equally disappointed at present are the epicures who would normally be gearing up for events like the London Coffee Festival, celebrating the finest gourmet beans and blends, coffee paraphernalia, brewing methods and educational presentations from world-class baristas. But, like most social gatherings, these have all been canceled or postponed in an effort to curb transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Instead, the coffee-enthusiast community can now sign up to participate in the world’s first Virtual Coffee Festival, as Time Out discovered. So, budding aficionados and java connoisseurs alike can still share their love of coffee culture, gain unique insight into the industry and learn leading methods from world-class experts, while maintaining social distancing.

Five inspirational industry professionals will cover coffee-centric topics and provide interactive workshops that viewers can participate in from home. Author Ronny Billemon will provide ways to use water for brewing outstanding coffee; Joe McTaggart will teach top-notch bean-grinding skills; expert roaster Talor Browne will explain how to source the best coffee; Swedish Barista Champion Matt Winton will share on how to become a pro at home coffee-brewing and Dutch Barista Champion Wendelien van Bunnik will demonstrate Aeropress brewing.

The Virtual Coffee Festival will be broadcast live from Amsterdam via YouTube and Facebook channels to a global audience on Sunday, March 29, 2020, from 7:00 – 11:30 a.m. EST. While it’s technically a free online event, participants are asked to make a small donation, with all proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders to support the healthcare workers who’re on the front lines fighting against the coronavirus.

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UNWTO: Covid-19 could push tourism back to 2013 levels

The World Tourism Organisation has released an updated assessment of the likely impact of the Covid-19 on international tourism.

Considering the unparalleled introduction of travel restrictions across the world, the United Nations specialised agency for tourism expects that international tourist arrivals will be down by 20-30 per cent in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures.

However, UNWTO stresses that these numbers are based on the latest developments as the global community faces up to an unprecedented social and economic challenge and should be interpreted with caution in view of the extreme uncertain nature of the current crisis.

An expected fall of this magnitude could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts (exports) of between US$300-450 billion, almost one third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019.

Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five- and seven-years’ worth of growth will be lost to Covid-19.

Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by four per cent, while the SARS outbreak led to a decline of just 0.4 per cent in 2003.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “Tourism is among the hardest hit of all economic sectors.

“However, tourism is also united in helping to address this immense health emergency – our first and utmost priority – while working together to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on employment, and to support the wider recovery efforts through providing jobs and driving economic welfare worldwide.”

Pololikashvili added that, while it is too early to make a full assessment of the likely impact of Covid-19 on tourism, it is clear that millions of jobs within the sector are at risk of being lost.

Around 80 per cent of all tourism businesses are small-and-medium-sized enterprises.


For all the latest from Breaking Travel News on the coronavirus pandemic, take a look here.

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As FAA workers test positive for coronavirus, are further airport disruptions expected?

Air traffic controllers and other workers at 10 airports and control facilities across the country have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

a large ship in a body of water: Three FAA technicians at Chicago's Midway Airport have tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the agency to close the control tower for deep cleaning.

Coronavirus cases at Chicago Midway and Las Vegas’ McCarran airports last week led control towers there to be closed and disinfected, forcing the delay or cancellation of hundreds of flights.

The FAA declined to say how many air traffic controllers and other personnel have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But the outbreak has caused major disruptions to the nation’s airspace, and it has the potential to cause more.

In the New York region alone, FAA personnel have tested positive for COVID-19 at four facilities, including LaGuardia and JFK International airports. New York has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, and public health experts predict that other regions of the country could see a rapid increase in the coming weeks. 

The union that represents air traffic controllers has pleaded with state and federal officials for more widespread testing, has asked for clearer guidance on cleaning and disinfecting control tower workspaces and has even postponed its May convention in Houston.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association union wrote its members on Sunday that “lower-traffic facilities” may need to close to ensure enough personnel are available to manage national airspace.

“It is possible, but there is not yet enough data to predict one way or another,” said John Cox, an aviation safety analyst and a retired commercial airline pilot who writes a regular Ask The Captain column for USA TODAY.

An example of a lower-traffic airport would be the one in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Cox said, whereas La Guardia would be considered high-traffic.

While commercial airlines have sharply curtailed their schedules and parked planes, air traffic controllers remain essential for keeping cargo, military, medical and law enforcement flights in the air.

Cox said the FAA is not likely to run out of personnel to manage U.S. airspace. 

“It’s not as big a problem as it could be,” he said. “If they need to, they can short staff.”

Cox said the FAA already does that at night, when there are fewer flights. He said the FAA worked around the problems in Chicago and Las Vegas.

Both airports were still able to clear a reduced number of flights for takeoff and landing. Already dealing with a steep drop in demand, many carriers simply canceled flights.

“They kind of put a makeshift system together that worked,” Cox said.

Once quarantined personnel recover or complete their 14-day isolation, he said, they’ll be able to go back to work. 

“Once the recovered people start to come back,” Cox said, “hopefully that gives us enough to keep things running.”

Last week, three FAA technicians tested positive for the coronavirus at Chicago Midway International Airport. The tower was closed for at least two days to be disinfected.

The control tower at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport also closed last week after an air traffic controller tested positive.

Southwest Airlines, the dominant carrier at both airports, canceled hundreds of flights at both airports last week.

Other locations where controllers or workers have tested positive include the air route traffic control centers in New York and Indianapolis, and smaller airports in Peoria, Illinois; Wilmington, Delaware; and Farmingdale, New York.

“Like much of the country, the Federal Aviation Administration is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases at air traffic facilities and other offices across the nation,” the agency said in a statement Saturday. “Each disruption has a distinct impact on the air traffic system. This is frustrating and inconvenient, but is necessary in the interest of safety.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: As FAA workers test positive for coronavirus, are further airport disruptions expected?

WATCH: Oakland Southwest gate agent tests positive for COVID-19 (provided by ABC 7 San Francisco)

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TSA to Receive Supply of Expired Respirator Masks

With supplies such as medical masks running low amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) will be sending the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) a large stockpile of expired N95 respirator masks. TSA will distribute the masks to airports as needed.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed to The Washington Post the decision to send out 1.5 million masks. It is currently unknown how many masks will be sent to the TSA or when they will be shipped.

It is not typically advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use N95 respirator masks that have expired. However, the large demand for masks by airport and medical workers, along with the general public, have made the need necessary. With the proper storage, the CDC has found that “many models have continued to perform in accordance with NIOSH performance standards.”

According to Fox News, TSA has allowed employees to wear protection in order to lower the risk of contracting the virus. This includes eye protection, N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and nitrile gloves. The use of surgical masks and nitrile gloves have been mandatory since the beginning of the pandemic.

“TSA will continue to follow guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding workforce protection,” TSA said in a statement. “We are working closely with the CDC and will follow any additional guidance that is issued.”

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