Holidays: Experts reveal top tips for finding a cheap break after lockdown – what is it?

Holidays, mini breaks and weekend trips seem like a distant memory since COVID-19 has forced most UK citizens to remain indoors until further notice. The latest Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines stipulate that British people should not be travelling abroad unless it’s essential.


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The latest rules state: “This applies for an indefinite period due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions.

“All countries may restrict travel without notice.”


But while lockdown has left many wondering when their next holiday is, there is no harm in planning that next post-lockdown adventure.

Family travel expert Erin Gifford spoke exclusively to about how to book an affordable holiday post-lockdown.

Ms Gifford is a Washington DC-based lifestyle and travel writer who has previously appeared on Lonely Planet as well as founding her own site,

In her expert opinion, most people after lockdown won’t be looking for a huge holiday abroad, but something closer to home.

She said: “I think more people will be foregoing large, urban destinations in favour of national parks and small to mid-size destinations, so I think there’s natural cost-saving there.

“Big cities are always more expensive.”

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But sometimes the most expensive aspect of a holiday, is not the accommodation or food costs but the flights themselves.

However, Ms Gifford had a helpful tip for those looking for cheap flights as she urged people to use travel tools online.

She said: “Continue to use helpful travel tools, like Skyscanner, which can offer quick insights into the cheapest places to fly by week or month.”

She added: “Flights can be the most expensive part of a vacation, so this can help guide you to a destination.”

Travel expert and owner of family travel site, Kids Are A Trip, Kirsten Maxwell explained her own cheap holiday top tip but for travelling with children after lockdown.

Ms Maxwell has also been featured in Lonely Planet and various other publications.

The family travel expert also recommended Skyscanner for affordable flights, but had another tip up her sleeve.

“I think it will be a good idea to keep an eye on travel sites like Skyscanner and Scotts Flights which offer a variety of travel discounts.”

But her tips for booking a vacation post-lockdown for the whole family do not just involve the cost.

She added: “If you reserve a vacation home versus a hotel, I would probably recommend bringing your own wipes and cleaning supplies and doing a thorough cleanse before your stay.”

However, she also thinks that parents will now take “safety into account and make choices they feel are right for their family”, rather than thinking about price.

She continued: “I think this is an eye opener for many people who will think twice before travel that involves ‘going off the grid’.

“Can you imagine being in a remote area and not realising anything was going on, and returning to mass closures?”

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More Than 13,000 American Airlines Crew Take Voluntary Leave, Early Retirement

As it weathers the new normal of less demand for travel and a reduction in flights due to the widespread growth of the coronavirus, American Airlines has started the attrition process with its pilots and flight attendants.

a man wearing a suit and tie: American Airlines pilots conversing at the gate

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that more than 13,000 pilots and flight attendants for American have accepted either early retirement or a voluntary leave this month or next.

According to the Morning News, American is offering voluntary leave to 4,800 pilots for April or May, while another 715 will be given early retirement with partial pay and full benefits. The figures include 1,500 pilots who were granted voluntary leave for April and were announced to employees last week.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants union said almost 8,000 members from American Airlines signed up for voluntary leave or early retirement out of 25,300 total. About 7,200 flight attendants signed up for three-, six- or 12-month leaves and about 760 will take early retirement. Both leave and retirement would start in May.

“These men and women have been with our airline through thick and thin and have led us through so many important moments in our airline’s and our industry’s history,” the company said in the letter about pilots taking early retirement. “The suddenness of their departure is a bit unsettling as this wasn’t what any of us had planned.”

American, like virtually every other airline, has drastically reduced flights through May. Depending on the continued growth of the virus, the reductions could last through spring and summer. The early retirements and voluntary leave should help the company reduce its workforce as needed.

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Cruise: Devastating blow for the industry following CDC rule – when will we cruise again?

Cruise holidays were booming at the end of last year, with the industry enjoying a pleasant uptick year-on-year with those options for a break on the high seas. However, since the outbreak of coronavirus, the industry has felt devastation ripple throughout.


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A new ruling by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has placed a further extension on when cruises will be allowed to resume from North America, and though many ships sail globally, this huge chunk of the world could result in more disruption for travellers.

The CDC has now lengthened its “no-sail ban” for cruises sailing from and docking at U.S. ports saying it should stay in place for at least “100 days”.

Though officials are allowed to recede the ban, as it stands that means the shutdown to cruising in the area will last well into July.

The ban can only be receded if the US government retracts its state of public health emergency.

At present, the US currently has more than 500,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and has experienced some of the highest death statistics in the world – at the time of writing 18,761 lives have been lost in the country.

With many cruise lines headquartered and sailing from US shores, including popular names such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises, the news means a new wave of holidaymakers are now facing cancelled plans.

“The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans,” CDC director Robert Redfield announced in a statement.

The CDC also revealed how many quarantined ships are still at sea.

A media statement reads: “In recent weeks, at least 10 cruise ships reported crew or passengers that tested positive or experienced respiratory symptoms or influenza-like illness. Currently, there are approximately 100 cruise ships remaining at sea off the East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf Coast, with nearly 80,000 crew onboard.

“Additionally, CDC is aware of 20 cruise ships at port or anchorage in the United States with known or suspected COVID-19 infection among the crew who remain onboard.”

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Given the fast-spreading nature of viruses on cruise ships, the industry was one of the first to be hit by the pandemic.

A Princess Cruises ship found itself in the spotlight after it was quarantined off the coast of Japan when 712 people on board were diagnosed.

Of those, 11 died and approximately 10 remain in critical condition.

However, experts believe that this won’t be the end of the cruise industry.


  • TUI holiday: Can I change the dates of my TUI holiday?

Speaking exclusively to, Erin Gifford, a Washington DC-based lifestyle and travel writer, said: “The cruise industry has really been battered though.

“They’ve weathered storms in the past, like norovirus outbreaks, but have always seemed to rebound.”

Despite this, she adds: “I think it will take longer to re-instill confidence in cruisers this time.”

The good news is, research shows cruise enthusiasts remain passionate and planning for the future.

A recent study from analysts at UBS recently revealed that bookings for 2021 cruises have “gone up nine percent in the last 30 days versus the same time last year”.

UBS said in a report at the end of March: “That includes people applying their future cruise credits from sailings that were cancelled this year, but still shows a surprising resilience in desire to book a cruise.”

So when will cruises return to the seas?

Given the unprecedented nature of the virus, it’s hard to put an exact date on sailings, as many firms are taking things day-by-day.

As it stands, many are still forecasting for May departure dates, others span as late as July.

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TUI holiday: Can I change the dates of my TUI holiday?

TUI holidays have been suspended for the next five weeks in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus around the world. Travel firms have been devastated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s decision to advise against all but essential travel. But can you change the dates of your TUI holiday?

TUI holidays, Marella Cruises and TUI River Cruises have been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus outbreak including:

  • TUI holidays where you are travelling on or before May 14, 2020.
  • Marella Cruises sailings travelling on or before May 31, 2020.
  • TUI River Cruises sailings travelling up until and including November 25, 2020.


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On Twitter, TUI wrote: “These are uncertain times for us all, and we don’t underestimate the impact on those of you with holidays booked.

“For that reason, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel all holidays up to and including 14th May.

“Our travel promise still stands, as it’s important for us to give you the holidays you deserve.

“This means you can amend all holidays up to 30th June for free, even if you’re due to travel between 17th April and 14th May.

“We continue to comply with the government’s social distancing rules, which means our customer service teams are working from home.

“We’re receiving an extraordinarily high volume of contact, so we’re still kindly asking that you don’t call or message us unless it’s absolutely urgent. We’ll be in touch with you to discuss your options.

“Thanks so much for your patience and understanding. We face unprecedented times, but we’re all in this together.

“Let’s continue to stay safe, be kind and keep dreaming.”

Can you get a refund if you have a holiday booked?

If your holiday is cancelled, unfortunately, it will not go ahead as planned.

But you can get a cash refund for the price of your holiday.

This refund should include your accommodation or just the flight if you only booked plane tickets through TUI holidays.

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Can you move the dates of your holiday?

If you have a holiday booked where you are travelling on or before May 14, you are able to move it to a later date for free.

If your booking is for a flight and a hotel stay, not as part of a package, the same will also apply.

Those due to travel in the next 48 hours are advised to contact TUI on 0203 451 2695, but the travel firm warns there will be a high volume.

A spokeswoman said: “We are constantly monitoring the situation and will start taking people on holiday again as soon as we are able to do so.”

What to do if you are travelling before June 30

Travellers with an existing booking before June 30, booked before March 17, 2020, can amend it for free for any holiday which is currently on sale.

If you opt to change your booking and the holiday you choose is cheaper than your original booking, you will be refunded the difference.

However, if it is more expensive, you are required to pay the difference in price.

You can make a change free of charge up until seven days before your original departure date, up to May 31, 2020.

You can find a helpful guide about how to change your booking here.

What if your holiday is booked for after June 30, 2020?

Holidays scheduled to go ahead after June 30, 2020 are due to proceed as originally planned.

This means normal terms and conditions for holiday cancellations will apply.

If travel advice and restrictions are in place closer to this time, it is possible TUI will issue further suspensions, but this will not be determined until closer to that time.

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Cruise secrets: Crew dishes dirt on what staff really do with wedding rings while at sea

Cruise ship crew are hard at work throughout cruises looking after the passengers. It’s not all work and no play for the cruise staff, however. There’s plenty of fun to be had working in this industry – although sometimes this results in rather risqué scenarios.


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A former cruise ship crew member exclusively spoke to about the saucy goings-on onboard cruises and dished the dirt according to his experiences.

Paul (who wanted his surname to remain anonymous) revealed what the culture around romance is on the ships – and not all of it was by the book.

He explained that cheating was rife onboard.

“When you first arrive to start a contract all eyes are on you,” Paul said.

However, it isn’t just the singletons who clock their options.

“Guys and girls leave their engagement or wedding rings in their cabins,” divulged Paul.

“Women you meet that have a serious boyfriend at home almost always cheat, they can’t help themselves.

“Plus, if a woman is willing to leave her boyfriend at home for eight months, then it wasn’t that serious in the first place.”

Love is always in the air (if only for one night) for many of the crew, according to the former cruise ship worker.

“In my estimation, I would say that any given time there are probably 50 percent of crew members involved with another crew member,” said Paul.

What’s more, people can be quick to move on, he claimed.

“I have seen couples hook up for a week and then both jump into bed with someone else right away,” Paul divulged.


  • Cruise secrets: Ex crew reveals what he wishes he could tell guests

However, being unfaithful isn’t always easy on a cruise ship.

According to Paul, it’s likely someone else will notice what’s going on.

“No matter what, if you are in a short or long term ‘hook-up’ it’s very hard to cheat with another and get away with it,” he shared.

“As soon as you leave the cabin in the morning after a fun night I guarantee you that someone will see you walking down the I-95, hair and clothes rumpled, doing the walk of shame – and someone will gossip.”

Living in such close quarters also means that when things go wrong it isn’t pretty.

“When you screw up with someone in a relationship onboard then everybody knows. Everybody,” explained Paul.

“Even worse than high school and college combined. Nowhere to run and certainly nowhere to hide.”

In short, there’s always plenty going on that cruise passengers might not know about. “It’s a permanent floating soap opera in a nutshell,” concluded Paul.

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Vicki Freed Royal Caribbean International

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice president of sales and trade support and service, has been reaching out to the travel advisor community in a variety of ways amid the Covid-19 pandemic, including calls, emails and her weekly “coffee talk” webcast. Senior editor Jamie Biesiada spoke with Freed about the importance of communication as the travel industry copes with the impact of the crisis.

Q: How have you been connecting with travel advisors?

A: I’m dropping them notes in the mail, I’ve been sending them emails. I’m just trying to connect with people so that when we get through this, they’ll remember that human connection.

A lot of them just need guidance: What should I be doing now? How should I be marketing? Should I be marketing? How do I keep my business alive? I think they view me as a resource, somebody who’s been in this business a long time. I’m a pretty calm, level-headed person, so I think people say, “You know, she won’t get emotional, she’ll be able to help guide us through these challenging times,” or at least be a sounding board.

I’ve been giving travel partners some messaging on how I would message during these times. I wouldn’t be doing a hard sell. I would just be reminding people to be healthy, stay healthy, and that we, too, shall get past this. And then, if you do decide that you’re going to need a break post-Covid-19, I’ll be here, whether it’s 2020, 2021 or beyond.

Q: How have you been using video in your outreach efforts?

A: The purpose of my coffee chats, it’s really [travel advisors’] hour. What’s on their mind? However, I do spend the first 12 minutes giving them an update on maybe [the cancellation program] Cruise With Confidence, or last week it was [agency assistance program] RCL Cares, or how to find your FCCs [future cruise credits]. An insight. And then I try to give them two little nuggets of something they can look forward to in their business. It’s really the rebuilding of their business. It’s something that they can take with them to gain some knowledge. I don’t want to keep rehashing where we’re at, because where we’re at isn’t going to change. We need to look forward.

We talked about hosting virtual cruise nights a couple weeks ago, and I got a lot of feedback on it. People said, “I tried it, it was excellent, Vicki.” And other people said, “I really want to try it, but I don’t get it; give me the step by step.” So I showed them the different platforms and what the costs were, and then I showed them the six steps to launching an “armchair traveler” program or a “stay vacation” program or “let’s dream about vacation” program.

Q: What tools are you giving advisors for connecting with clients? I’ve seen some nice Royal Caribbean photos used as video call backdrops.

A: Yes, and we showed them how to get that. We said, ‘Look, you could have Perfect Day  at CocoCay in the background, you can have a ship in the background, and it’ll make you look a little bit more professional. It’ll give people the color and the excitement.’

Q: Have you started looking at restructuring agreements with travel agencies or offering incentives at this point?

A: It’s a little too soon to start that big journey, but what we have done is we are protecting commissions on the final paid bookings if canceled, whether they’re electing to cancel on their own because it’s Cruise With Confidence or whether we cancel the sailing. So we are helping the travel partner by giving them their full commission. Even though this costs our company a lot of money and we didn’t generate any revenue because the sailings were canceled or the people canceled on us, we feel that, in the long haul, we need these travel partners to be successful, to be financially strong. So we’re doing our part.

Q: I’ve noticed you’re still sending your emails with Vicki’s Tips every day, messages of inspiration, business ideas and more.

A: I’m trying to just be in their inbox, make it relevant to the times we’re in right now.

So many travel partners are home-based. Some of them are very isolated. Some of them might be living alone. I just want to be somebody who they know is a resource to them and somebody that cares about them. Really, that’s my goal. I do care about these travel partners. My whole career has been about serving travel advisors.

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Air Passenger Rights in a COVID-19 World

With no end date in sight for coronavirus travel restrictions being lifted, many carriers are laying off or furloughing up to 90 percent of employees as demand continues to plummet, according to Christian Nielsen, chief legal officer at AirHelp.

“COVID-19 has caused a major change in the industry, and as a passenger rights company, AirHelp is concerned that airlines are ignoring travelers’ rights more than ever before—as seen recently with airlines pushing for vouchers instead of cash refunds for canceled trips,” he said. “In this time of crisis, it has become even more evident that airlines are disregarding travelers’ rights to save on costs.”

He added, “A short-term crisis cannot be used as an excuse to reduce traveler protections for the long-term. Only time will tell, but at AirHelp, we are hopeful that passengers will be treated fairly and that government bodies will step in to make sure airlines do not unfairly raise prices or take advantage of travelers.”

If travelers’ trips are canceled due to coronavirus travel restrictions, they have a right to a refund on their tickets. However, there is currently a caveat to those rights, Nielsen said. “Typically, travelers have a right to compensation, but together at AirHelp and The Association of Passenger Rights Advocates (APRA), we realize that the scope of the crisis has expanded beyond airlines’ control and have therefore decided not to put these claims forward to airlines,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nielsen detailed a regular disruption regulation, EC 261, a European law that protects travelers on flights to European Union destinations on European airlines, and any flights out of the European Union.

“All U.S. travelers on trips out of Europe, anyone departing to the U.S. and arriving in Europe on a European carrier, or any traveler with a connection in the EU is covered by this regulation,” he said. “It mandates that travelers can claim compensation for disruptions that were avoidable by the airline, including last-minute cancellations, delays that are three hours or longer, or boarding denials. In a lot of situations, passengers can claim up to $700 in compensation from the airline, and this compensation is on top of a refund for a canceled trip. On average, claims can be filed for up to three years after an incident takes place.”

Airlines are required to compensate eligible travelers, and are exempt if and only if a disruption was caused by extraordinary circumstances, Nielsen said. “Examples of extraordinary circumstances include disruptions due to sabotage, terrorism or bad weather. With APRA, AirHelp has decided to make airlines exempt from these obligations for flights that were disrupted due to COVID-19.”

While only “time will tell, [and with] the assistance of AirHelp, we are hopeful that passengers will be treated fairly and that government bodies will step in to make sure airlines do not unfairly raise prices or take advantage of travelers.”

Arguably, when and how the airline industry will recover remains uncertain at best. “We can’t be sure what is next for recovery, but we are hopeful that in the next few months the world will succeed in stopping the [COVID-19] spread and that events will be rescheduled and demand for travel will rebound while making sure everyone is remaining safe,” Nielsen said.

In the final analysis, Nielsen stressed the importance of consumers being aware of what they are entitled to. “It is especially important for travelers to become familiar with their rights because, in these exceptional times, they need to exercise their rights more than ever before,” he said.

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Creepy images of an abandoned U.S doctor's surgery

Taxidermy wolf rugs, 18th-century medical equipment – and real human bones: Haunting images taken inside a creepy abandoned doctor’s surgery in Northern Virginia

  • New York photographer Bryan Sansivero found the abandoned doctor’s surgery on a tree-lined driveway 
  • Inside he found bottles containing mystery liquids, eerie examination rooms and lots of peeling paint
  • The surgery was a separate extension to a residential mansion, explained Bryan, who’s from Long Island

It’s a set of photographs that’s likely to give you goosebumps.

These intriguing – yet decidedly creepy – pictures were taken inside a crumbling abandoned doctor’s surgery in Northern Virginia by urban explorer Bryan Sansivero.

As you peer at them through your fingers, you’ll spy taxidermy wolf rugs, bottles containing mystery liquids and medical books and equipment dating back to the 1800s.

Urban explorer Bryan Sansivero found an abandoned doctor’s surgery at the top of a long, tree-lined driveway

Next to a sink, there’s a heart model, some medical tools and a skeleton model. And on the shelf there’s a real human vertebrae

Inside a pink-tiled examination room. Bryan found these areas of the property particularly creepy

Plus a great deal of peeling paint and that time-honoured staple of horror films – a rocking chair.

The surgery was a separate extension to a residential mansion, explained Bryan, who’s from Long Island, New York.

The rooms in this part are still full of belongings – clothes, shoes and family photographs – but they’re a terrible mess.

Those with wild imaginations might surmise that poltergeists have ransacked them.

But Bryan told MailOnline Travel that they were ‘most likely looted or rearranged by people who stumbled upon the house previously’.

Eerie go: Every self-respecting house of horrors has a rocking chair

A taxidermy wolf rug lends the building an extra layer of goosebump-inducing menace

Another frozen-in-time examination room, complete with wheelchair and gas tank

Not for drinking: Empty bottles of mysterious liquids stand amid old, dusty books

Old, brown medicine bottles – two of which have a red cross drawn across the label. One of them is Merthiolate, which used to be used as a germ killer and preservative

The surgery was a separate extension to a residential mansion, explained Bryan

A hallway in a state of disrepair, with peeling blue wallpaper and crumbling door frames 

Either way, there’s something distinctly horror-movie-set about them.

Bryan said the atmosphere inside the surgery was ‘very eerie’, especially the family photographs and empty examination rooms.

He was also unnerved by the real human vertebrae he spotted on a shelf behind a model of a human skeleton.

Here nature is making a bid to give the interior an even wilder look

The building contains a smattering of modern technology, which is inevitably surrounded by signs of deterioration

Bryan thinks that the mess he found in some rooms might have been the work of others who’d explored the house

An old television, children’s photographs, a wonky lamp. They sound innocuous written down, but add to the chilling vibe in the abandoned building

Ransacked by a poltergeist? Maybe, but probably another room disturbed by looters or previous explorers

Another examination room – though in the hands of a horror film direction, an experiment chamber 

The building can definitely be classed as a fixer-upper

Bryan said: ‘I think photographing the unknown is really interesting. It’s fascinating to me.

‘I believe my photographs can be interpreted in many different ways.

‘When my photography makes the viewer uncomfortable, confused or just think, then I think I achieved my goal.’

To see more of Bryan’s work visit his Instagram page and website.   

Another room, another frankly terrifying taxidermy wolf rug – plus mysterious black-and-white pictures

Two children’s photographs in paper frames, a mirror and an old photograph in a wooden frame sit on a single bed

Bryan said: ‘I think photographing the unknown is really interesting. It’s fascinating to me’

‘When my photography makes the viewer uncomfortable, confused or just think, then I think I achieved my goal,’ said Bryan

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Coronavirus: Flydubai flies 23 repatriation flights from UAE

The flights flew to Afghanistan, Croatia, Egypt, Iran, Russia, Sudan, Somaliland, and Thailand

Dubai-based airline Flydubai has operated 23 repatriation flights carrying 2,800 passengers from the UAE between March 19 and April 8, the airline has announced.

According to the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency, the flights – operating from Terminal 2 at Dubai International Airport – flew to Afghanistan, Croatia, Egypt, Iran, Russia, Sudan, Somaliland, and Thailand.

The flights were all approved by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the governments of the respective countries.

The flights only carried outbound passengers from the UAE. Only UAE nationals were allowed to travel on the return sector. The flights also carried essential goods in the belly-hold of the passenger aircraft in both directions, including medical supplies across the network.

Over the course of the next week, Flydubai plans to operate as many as 10 more repatriation flights.

“We acknowledge the challenges we are all facing in dealing with this pandemic and the impact it will have not only on our industry, but also on our livelihood and how we do things moving forward,” Hamad Obaidalla, chief commercial officer of Flydubai.

“We choose to remain focused on how we can contribute to easing the strain, enabling the movement of essential goods to where they are needed and bringing back people home when possible,” Obaidalla added. “We remain committed to supporting requests from governments to operate repatriation flights for their citizens.”

Digital magazine: Read the latest edition of Arabian Business online

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Hawaiian Airlines offers free interisland flights for medical workers

Hawaiian Airlines is providing complimentary interisland flights for medical professionals this month to support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Partnering with Hawaii’s health care providers, including Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated, The Queen’s Health Systems, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, Hawaii Permanente Medical Group, Hawai’i Pacific Health and Diagnostic Laboratory Services,
the airline is working to facilitate delivering medical services to communities across the Aloha State.

“This virus has presented an unprecedented test for all of us who call Hawaii home, and we are glad to be able to support the exceptional and important work our medical providers are carrying out across our islands each day to meet our state’s health care needs and help us overcome this challenge,” Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO Peter Ingram said in a statement.

On April 4, Hawaiian began operating 16 daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu and Hilo and Kona on the Island of Hawaii, Kahului on Maui and Lihue on Kauai. The airline is also serving both Molokai and Lanai from Honolulu on Ohana by Hawaiian flights.

Additionally, Hawaiian has suspended service between Honolulu and Pago Pago on American Samoa for at least 30 days through April 23 at the request of the American Samoan government.

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