Tui to refund customers by end of month following investigation

canary island
canary island

Tui has agreed to pay out all refunds it owes to customers by the end of September, following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The CMA has received thousands of complaints from customers who had been left waiting for weeks to get their money back for cancelled trips. Refunds for cancelled package holidays should be processed within 14 days. 

Tui’s commitment to refund consumers covers all the brand’s businesses that offer package holidays: First Choice, First Choice Holidays, Marella Cruises, Crystal Ski, Tui Scene, Tui Lakes and Mountains, and Skytours. Customers who were issued refund credit notes will be told that they are entitled to a cash refund, which they should receive within 14 days. 

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said: “It is absolutely essential that people have trust and confidence when booking package holidays and know that if a cancellation is necessary as a result of coronavirus, businesses will give them a full, prompt refund.”

He added: “The CMA is continuing to investigate package holiday firms in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. If we find that businesses are not complying with consumer protection law, we will not hesitate to take further action.”

Hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers have seen their holidays cancelled, or had to cancel trips, amid ongoing travel restrictions. The Government reviews its quarantine list each Thursday with a 14-day quarantine for newly-added countries coming into effect at 4am the following Saturday.

Scroll down for the latest travel updates.

04:03 PM

What happened today?

  • Tui agrees to refund customers by end of September

  • Dozens of countries ease restrictions ahead of winter sun holidays

  • Airlines have escaped fines for breaking UK law for 17 years, says Which?

  • G20 leaders to consider international plan for airport virus testing 

  • Thomas Cook launched as online online tour operator 

  • BA boss tells Transport Select Committee: ‘We’re still fighting for our survival’

Catch-up with the rest below.

03:49 PM

The Netherlands sees record daily high of new cases

The Netherlands recorded 1,542 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, marking a daily high for the second successive day. 

On Tuesday, the country recorded 1,379 cases. The country’s seven-day rolling infection rate now sits at 49.3 per 100,000 residents. Travellers arriving in the UK from the Netherlands are subject to 14 days of self-isolation.

Coronavirus Netherlands Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Netherlands Spotlight Chart – Cases default

03:41 PM

Could saliva Covid-19 tests be used to cut travel quarantine times?

Ian Henderson, director at Halo, which offers saliva-based virus tests, suggests they could. He told Telegraph Travel:

“Testing needs to be simple and safe enough for passengers to do themselves – nose swabs (or ‘brain ticklers’ as some doctors call them) need medical supervision. That means huge queues at airports, as well as high costs.

“Halo is one system that is already being used by major airlines to screen their own flight crews – who clearly can’t quarantine, and who need to be certain they don’t have the virus. It’s also being used by universities and other large organisations wanting to get back to normality. 

“The Halo system tests saliva, not nose swabs. You just spit in a tube, scan the tube with your phone, send it back in a neatly-designed pack and get the result on your secure, encrypted Halo app in a few hours. It’s as simple, painless and safe as that. The test can be done at home before departure, at either end of the journey, avoiding airport queues. Halo already offers courier and mail deliveries, and the app can be integrated with boarding passes to make sure everyone on board a plane is clear.  

03:28 PM

Travel boss: £10bn outbound travel industry ‘hasn’t had the airtime it deserves’

The Telegraph #Test4Travel campaign seeks to scrap quarantine through airport testing. Senior MPs and industry leaders are backing #Test4Travel and building on the debate.

Geoffrey Kent, founder and chairman of Abercrombie and Kent, told Telegraph Travel:

“This isn’t only about testing on arrival, but more accessible testing across the board, allowing people to move more freely and provide evidence that they are Covid-free. The current system the government uses would essentially ban themselves from visiting many countries if the rules were reversed.

“The existing protocols were the right move for a short-term problem, however it is clear that this is not a temporary problem and without sensible changes, every aspect of the travel industry from tour operators to airlines will be devastated. The Government has a lot on their plate right now and have rightly prioritised our health care system.

“However, I do believe that given the importance of the economic outlook and given that the outbound travel industry is worth £10bn, it hasn’t had the airtime it deserves.This health crisis will become a conservation crisis. Poaching is on the rise as lost income drives local people to look for alternate ways to support their families. And without guides and visitors from safari camps, there are fewer eyes watching out for endangered species as well as less donation to philanthropic causes that help local communities.”

03:14 PM

Fire fighters battle wildfires in western States as smoke travels the world

Fires crews are continuing to battle deadly wildfires sweeping the western United States, with thousands of evacuees in Oregon and other states facing a daily struggle.

Scientists in Europe tracked the smoke on Wednesday as it spread across continents.

Dozens of fires have burned some 4.5 million acres of tinder-dry brush, grass and woodlands in Oregon, California and Washington state since August, ravaging several small towns, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 34 people.

Read more:Fleeing cars melted as the sky turned orange’ – a postcard from Oregon

03:08 PM

Comment: Christmas isn’t cancelled – I’ll be escaping with my family to the Alps this festive season

The ridiculous rule of six threats to ruin the festive season, but a solution can be found in the mountains, writes my colleague, and our ski editor, Lucy Aspden: 

There is a blindingly obvious solution to this draconian nonsense that skiers and snowboarders in particular could use to their advantage.If Boris must insist on cancelling Christmas by imposing the rule of six, I’ll be looking to our European cousins for a more friendly festive season.

When it comes to Christmas, ski resorts have it all – giant Alpine fir trees decked in a blanket of white, local markets selling unique stocking fillers, gluhwein flowing on every corner, streets lined with twinkling lights, enough activity to burn off a week’s worth of turkey, and hotel and chalet staff in traditional dress bearing a remarkable resemblance to Santa’s elves. There’s time to save 2020 yet and the Alps hold the key.

Read Lucy’s article in full.

02:49 PM

The 17 countries you can visit right now without a quarantine

  1. Denmark (which looks set to be added to the quarantine-list)

  2. Faroe Islands (Visitors required to take Covid-19 test at airport on arrival)

  3. Germany

  4. Gibraltar

  5. Greece (Not including Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos) 

  6. Iceland (Open to tourists, but all arrivals must pay to be tested twice for coronavirus, and await the results in their hotel, or self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Children born in 2005 or later are exempt)

  7. Italy

  8. Liechtenstein

  9. Poland

  10. Portugal (only Azores and Madeira, and visitors must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, carried out no more than 72 hours before arrival, or take a test on arrival and await the results within 12 hours at their accommodation)

  11. San Marino

  12. Slovakia 

  13. Slovenia

  14. Sweden

  15. Turkey

  16. Vatican City

  17. Cuba (Tourists can enter Cuba on international charter flights arriving directly into Cayo Coco, Cayo Cruz or Cayo Guillermo (served by Jardines del Rey airport); Cayo Santa Maria (flying into Santa Clara airport); or Cayo Largo del Sur only).

02:39 PM

A tale of two Plymouths, 400 years after the voyage of the Mayflower

Fred Mawer and Sally Peck explain how these cities on opposite sides of the Atlantic are marking the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s epic voyage.

Plymouth, UK - Getty
Plymouth, UK – Getty
Plymouth, Massachusetts - Getty
Plymouth, Massachusetts – Getty

02:34 PM

Vietnam to resume commercial international flights to clutch of Asian destinations

Vietnam will resume international commercial flights to several Asian destinations starting Friday, after a month-slong shutdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The flights, however, are reserved for Vietnamese nationals, diplomats, experts, managers, skilled workers, investors and their families. They are not yet available for tourists.

According to a report on the government website, flights connecting Vietnam’s two largest cities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – to destinations in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan will operate on a weekly basis. Flights connecting the cities with Cambodia and Laos will resume next week.

To board a flight, passengers must hold a certificate showing they have tested negative for the virus no more than five days before the departure date. Upon arrival, they will be tested and placed under quarantine, the report said.

02:21 PM

Loveholidays quits ABTA, following On the Beach

Loveholidays has resigned from ABTA just days after rival online travel agent On the Beach gave up its membership of the travel association, reports the Travel Mole blog.

ABTA had launched an investigation into the online travel agents after they refused to fully refund passengers for holidays to Spain after the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advised against all non-essential travel.

Loveholidays said in a statement: “Unfortunately, as a result of our divergent views on the legal position regarding cancellations and refunds, we have decided that it is no longer possible for loveholidays to remain a member of ABTA.”

02:14 PM

The best options for a half-term family escape

We’re keeping track of the destinations available to British families this half term. How about the Bodrum peninsula?

turkey - Getty
turkey – Getty

The risk: I don’t want to tempt fate, but with an infection rate that has risen only gently through the summer season and is still under 14 per 100,000 – lower than the UK’s – Turkey looks like it may be the safest bet among the major holiday destinations. 

The reward: Summer lingers long on the south coast of Turkey, with temperatures in Bodrum, for example, typically peaking at 75F (24C), the sea a balmy 72F (22C) and eight hours of sunshine a day in October. Choose between the lively resorts of the peninsula, quieter corners such as Kalkan, and days either on the beach or visiting astonishing ancient ruins.

Getting there: There are lots of flights (easyJet and BA for example, see skyscanner.net), and many tour operators are offering packages. Simpson Travel (simpsontravel.com) has a variety of villas available in Kalkan.

Read the full guide.

02:06 PM

France to introduce tougher laws on squatting after retired couple’s Riviera holiday home taken over

France is to introduce tougher laws against squatting after a retired couple struggled to evict a family occupying their Riviera villa in a case that triggered public outrage, reports David Chazan.

The National Assembly on Wednesday debated a change in the law to speed up the removal of squatters, proposed by the party of President Emmanuel Macron.

The move was prompted by public sympathy for the plight of Henri and Marie-Thérèse Kaloustian, both 75. Their dream of a quiet retirement on the Mediterranean coast turned sour when a couple with two young children occupied their pink villa in the picturesque village of Théoule-sur-Mer, and changed the locks.

Local police refused to evict the squatters without a court order, reportedly telling the owners: “Sorry, squatters have all the rights.”

Read David’s full report.

01:57 PM

Which countries are in the quarantine ‘amber zone’

Denmark’s seven-day infection rate has reached 36.8 per 100,000 people, meaning it looks set for the quarantine-list when Transport Secretary Grant Shapps delivers an update tomorrow. 

However, Greece, Italy and Sweden all sit within the ‘amber zone’ – a seven-day infection rate of 15 or more cases per 100,000. Here’s how the numbers are looking in these three countries.

Coronavirus Greece Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Greece Spotlight Chart – cases default
Coronavirus Italy Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Italy Spotlight Chart – cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart – Cases default

01:40 PM

Cruise giants confident over Covid-secure sailing

As cruise lines in Europe have cautiously resumed sailing, their counterparts are all at sea – without passengers – in America, reports Kaye Holland.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended a no-sail order effectively banning cruising around American waters until the end of October. All of which has meant that major operators – including Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Princess Cruises – have been forced to scrap almost the entire 2020 season. And cruise bosses have had enough. Frank Del Rio, the chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, told Miami-Dade County Tourism and the Ports Committee: “The cruise industry is close to devastation […] we’ve had to raise $20 billion’ to stay afloat.

“We’ve got to get to work […] enough is enough. It’s been more than six months. We as an industry and society have learned a lot about how to live beside Covid.”

Read the full story.

01:29 PM

‘Many package holiday firms are still breaking the law,’ says Which?

Rory Boland, travel editor at the consumer group Which?, says Tui’s announcement that will process its backlog of refunds by the end of this month is “positive news” that “should mean there is light at the end of the tunnel for thousands of people who have been struggling to get refunds.” However, he adds:

There are many package holiday firms still breaking the law, forcing customers to accept refund credit notes and delaying refunds, so the CMA must be ready to take enforcement action against any firms that are failing to meet their legal obligations.

This action stands in sharp contrast to the situation with flight refunds, where airlines have disregarded warnings from the CAA, which has shown itself to be unable to take effective action. Consumers need a strong aviation regulator with real powers to hold airlines to account.

01:24 PM

Paris to keep new cycling paths after pandemic

New cycling lanes in Paris, opened in a hurry to deal with a large commuter shift to bicycles during the Covid-19 pandemic, will be made permanent, the city’s mayor said today. 

cycle path - Getty
cycle path – Getty

After years of expanding the French capital’s network of bike paths, city officials turned an additional 50 kilometres (31 miles) of traffic lanes used by cars over to cyclists in a move initially announced as temporary.

“They will be made permanent, we’re working on that”, Mayor Anne Hidalgo told Europe 1 radio.

She said that the surge in cycling Parisians had shown that bikes had become a credible commuting choice, and that “it also helps to cut pollution.”

01:15 PM

Taiwan flights to nowhere sell out in four minutes

More than 100 people in Taiwan are booked on sightseeing flight over Korea’s Jeju island, which departs and lands at the same airport.

Tickets, which cost 270,000 Korean won (£177), sold out in just four minutes for the trip on which passengers will depart and land at the same airport. The price includes a voucher for round trip flights from Taiwan to Korea, valid for 12 months.

Passengers will be able to try on traditional Korean clothing and will be served a meal of fried chicken and beer.

01:00 PM

Face masks now mandatory on board, says Scottish cruise line

Scottish cruise company The Majestic Line has reversed its policy on face masks, saying passengers and crew must now wear them in public areas.

In July, managing director Ken Grant – who is also an epidemiologist – told The Telegraph: “We’re not going to cruise with people in masks… we would rather ask them to rebook or give them their money back.”

Now, however, passengers and crew will be required to wear face masks at all times while in public areas, except while eating or drinking.

Is it a shrewd move, or another blow for common sense? Dave Monk has the full story.

12:46 PM

Part of Brecon Beacons area to be placed under local lockdown

The Welsh Government has announced a local lockdown in Rhondda Cynon Taf – whose borders encompass part of the Brecon Beacons. From 6pm on Thursday, the county will be the second in Wales to have localised restrictions – which will include a curfew for pubs and restaurants, and a ban on meeting other households indoors.

Rhondda Cynon Taf extends from the north of Cardiff, up into a small area of the Brecon Beacons. It is highly unlikely that entry to the national park will be affected by the local lockdown.

Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically
Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically

12:27 PM

Watch: Exploring Portugal’s Covid-free alternative to Mallorca by bike

Keen cyclist Simon Parker meets his match on Madeira’s steep climbs and zig-zag descents:

“I’ve made some almighty cock-ups as a travel writer over the years – my back catalogue is punctuated by incompetence. But thinking I could just amble around Madeira on a bicycle is – for now, at least – the pinnacle of my professional naivety…” 

How my holiday turned into an endurance sport.

12:19 PM

‘I just want to see my family’: Meet the stranded Australians desperate to go home

It’s a journey of unprecedented difficulty. In destinations all over the world, around 100,000 Australians are trying to return home from overseas – to be reunited with loved ones, recommence their jobs, and try to put the pandemic behind them. In a bid to control Covid, Australia has kept its international borders either completely closed or tightly restricted for most of the year – but where do you turn when you can’t get home? 

John Pabon is stuck in Shanghai, with no clue how to get back to his native Melbourne:

“There are no scheduled flights for the rest of September and likely October. As of yesterday, all possible routes to Sydney were unavailable. This is just stress piled on top of other stresses. I have a business, family, and life in Melbourne I want to get back to.”

Emma Beaumont has the full story.

12:02 PM

Denmark only likely addition to quarantine-list this week

Travel expert Paul Charles offers an update on the latest figures ahead of tomorrow’s quarantine-list update. 

11:57 AM

Campsite bookings up 239 per cent on 2019

The September sun could be helping to prolong the camping trend, according to data from booking platform Pitchup.com.

Campsite arrivals for the coming weekend are triple what they were at this time last year.

Some 155,436 holidaymakers have booked outdoor stays with Pitchup this month, compared to 52,332 in September 2019 (up 197 per cent). 

Related: Is your UK holiday now illegal?

11:45 AM

Professor Karol Sikora: A simple saliva test could unlock travel – so why won’t the Government act?

Testing could replace quarantine and save the travel countries that are under threat, writes Professor Karol Sikora:

Our travel companies are struggling for survival and the UK hospitality industry is on its knees. Our cancer centres are full of vulnerable patients urgently needing complex treatments. So, what’s the connection?

In both cases we need to ensure that we maintain environments free of infection. The only way to do this is by effective, repeated and reliable testing. Politicians love hyperbole but whichever way you look at it Britain’s testing system is far from ‘world beating’.

Our administration is poor by international standards, but our scientists are not. It’s why there is so much frustration growing. Other countries have shown real imagination and innovation to tackle some of the issues we all face, so why can’t we?

Scientists are providing answers and we have some of the brightest, but for reasons unknown ministers seem unwilling to fully embrace them. No industries have been more impacted than travel and hospitality. Both have been suffocated by ludicrous and inconsistent quarantine rules. Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam airports are for the first time now handling more passengers than Heathrow. The continent is getting airborne but we’re still stuck in the hangar.

Read Professor Sikora’s piece in full.

11:28 AM

Britons searching for trips to Turkey and Sweden

Quarantine-free Turkey and Sweden have risen up the holiday wish-list, according to data from Skyscanner. Its findings include:

  • The Turkish destinations of Istanbul, Dalaman and Antalya feature in September’s top 10 searched destinations for the first time

  • Return flights to Sweden are cheaper than average for September: return flights between London and Stockholm start from £56

Related: Big lakes, treehouse hotels and time travel – 15 reasons to visit Sweden

11:19 AM

Planning a Greek island holiday?

Seven Greek islands have been added to the quarantine-list for arrivals to England and Northern Ireland while Wales has imposed quarantine for nine islands (Scotland has red-listed both the mainland and islands). 

If you’re planning a trip to Greece, it helps to keep an eye on regional infection rates . Travel expert and chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency Paul Charles has shared a useful map. 

11:08 AM

British Airways takes plans to ‘fire and rehire’ staff off the table

The boss of British Airways has committed not to ram through a policy of “firing and rehiring” cabin and ground crew, reports Oliver Gill.

Alex Cruz told MPs that the airline was in talks with unions over a radical restructuring of operations that have been ripped apart by coronavirus.   

“There will be no need to issue new contracts,” he told the House of Commons transport committee. “No need to fire and rehire.”

Conservative MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, said this was “a change of position and a welcome one”.

Read the full story.

11:01 AM

Winter sun Caribbean cruises from Barbados announced by Norwegian line

One way to secure a dose of winter sun this year could be a Caribbean cruise. The keenest of cruise fans could hop of a small ship sailing from Barbados, reports Gary Buchanan

seadream yacht - Seadream
seadream yacht – Seadream

SeaDream Yacht Club, which started sailing again in June after a three-month pause, has confirmed a series of 22 sailings in the West Indies commencing on 7 November.

The seven-night round-trip cruises from Barbados will visit ports and anchorages that are relatively off-grid compared to the usual Caribbean itineraries.

Barbados is currently considered safe enough by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to have a ‘travel corridor’ with the UK, and is a well-known destination for holidays both before and after cruises. SeaDream I will visit islands regarded as low-risk for Covid-19.  If there is sufficient demand for these sailings, sister-yacht SeaDream II will also offer voyages to sequestered islands in the West Indies.

Read the full story.

10:44 AM

Comment: Tui’s refund promise is a victory for holidaymakers – but it’s only the tip of the iceberg

Telegraph Travel‘s Nick Trend comments on the news that Tui will process its backlog of refunds by the end of this month: 

Despite the fact that it is much overdue and has come about after the intervention of the CMA, the move is an extremely positive one. It will go a long way to restoring the operator’s reputation for customer service after it struggled to cope with the situation in the early days of the pandemic.

Some weeks ago the company told me that it had had to deal with 800,000 cancellations over the Easter period alone. Many more had to be cancelled over the summer, some at extremely short notice because of last minute changes to the Government’s quarantine rules.

All operators have found the logistical problems of cancelling so many bookings and finding enough funds to repay customers when they have no new bookings coming in. Tui is the market leader, has deep pockets, and in many ways was an easy win for the CMA.

What we need now is progress with the many other tour operators and airlines which are still failing to meet their legal obligations. The authority says it has written to more than 100 package holiday businesses to remind them of consumer protection law and has opened a number of investigations. 

Read Nick’s article in full.

10:36 AM

Pilots could be rusty after lockdowns, says aviation safety expert

Europe’s top aviation-safety official said that pilot rustiness following global groundings at the height of the coronavirus crisis may have been a factor in the fatal crash of a Pakistan International Airlines plane, reports Bloomberg.

European Union Aviation Safety Agency Executive Director Patrick Ky said that it’s reasonable to ask whether the tragedy of the Airbus SE A320 jetliner that hit a suburb of Karachi in May, killing all but two of the 99 people on board, would have happened without the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The pilots did not seem to be as fluent in the way they were conducting their flights as they should have,” Ky said in a media briefing arranged by the A4E association of European airlines. “If you haven’t flown for three months, six months, you need to be retrained in some way in order to come back.”

Planes themselves also need extra attention to ensure that they’re airworthy after standing idle for a length of time, according to Ky.

10:31 AM

Madrid to toughen Covid-19 measures on Friday with targeted lockdowns 

The Madrid region, one of the worst hit in Spain, is to introduce targeted lockdowns and other restrictions on movement on Friday in areas with high Covid-19 cases. 

Madrid accounts for around one-third of active coronavirus cases in Spain, with a higher incidence in high-density and low-income neighbourhoods, mainly in the south of the city.

“We are taking measures but it is not enough … Nothing will work if we are not responsible,” Antonio Zapatero, head of Covid-19 response in Madrid, told reporters.

“There has been a relaxation of behaviour that we cannot afford.” People were organizing parties, drinking in the street and not respecting quarantine rules, he added. 

Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart – Cases default

10:23 AM

Create regional travel corridors with US states, says Virgin Atlantic

While a growing number of long-haul destinations restart international tourism, many have yet to be added to the UK’s list of travel corridors, despite infection rates below the quarantine threshold.

Virgin Atlantic is urging the Government to extend its regional travel corridors (which have been opened for the Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores) to mainland destinations.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said:  

The safety and security of our people and our customers is always our top priority and public health must come first. However, until we restore flying at scale our economic recovery cannot take-off. We need urgent action from the UK and US governments to introduce regional travel corridors and testing regimes so that travel restrictions can be relaxed in confidence as soon as possible, while protecting public health. As long as the UK’s 14 day quarantine is in place, demand for travel will not return.

We urge the Government to extend its new ‘islands policy’ to create mainland regional travel corridors, including US States such as New York, which now have the same level of infection as the UK.

We are also calling for the introduction of a testing regime by the end of October to safely open up travel to those areas that have a higher infection rate than the UK. Although our aim is to create a pre-departure testing regime through government and industry trials, the Government’s own evidence supports a test after five days, which should be introduced immediately. Virgin Atlantic and its industry partners such as Heathrow and Manchester airports, and Swissport and Collinsons, are ready to work with the Government to make this happen.

10:17 AM

Dozens of destinations ease restrictions ahead of winter sun holidays

British holidaymakers should have options for winter sun this year with 53 per cent of destinations having eased travel restrictions as of early September, according to a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) report. 

Reopening details have emerged for a number of countries in recent weeks, including Mauritius, Madagascar, Nicaragua and a clutch of Caribbean islands. Even Thailand and South Africa, which have had blanket travel bans in place, are tentatively working towards restarting tourism. 

Britons travelling to these many of these destinations will face provisos, such as presenting a negative Covid-19 test on arrival or a combination of testing and quarantine. Plus, if the a country does not have a travel corridor with the UK Britons will face 14-days of self-isolation on their return. However, it offers hope of options beyond Europe.

The UNWTO report follows the emergence of plans for a standardised “traffic light” quarantine system that could see UK travellers locked out of the EU, based on current Covid-19 infection rates.

10:13 AM

Italy’s Lazio region trials airport tests for domestic flights

Travellers flying between Rome and Milan will have to present negative Covid-19 test results from today as part of an experiment by the Lazio region that could be extended to international flights.

People leaving either city will have to either take a rapid Covid test at the airport before boarding the so-called ‘Covid-free’ flights or within 72 before departure.

Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio, described the initiative as a ‘European novelty’.

“The Lazio model is [for those] with a [flight] ticket to have a quick swab test to ensure the flights are absolutely safe and do not carry people who are positive,” he wrote on Facebook. “It will be a great help to the economy and a model for tourism that we want to replicate on international routes.”

10:09 AM

British Airways boss: People are still afraid of travelling

The boss of British Airway told MPs people are “still afraid of travelling” as he defended the airline’s decision to cut up to 12,000 jobs.

He told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs are concerned.”

10:02 AM

A view from Israel: Anger and defiance reveals the problem with second lockdowns

Days before one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar, Israel has started a second lockdown. Dana Regev offers a view from the country.

From Friday, Israelis will be banned from travelling more than 500 metres from their homes - Getty
From Friday, Israelis will be banned from travelling more than 500 metres from their homes – Getty

Israelis are no strangers to internal divisions, and certainly not to a general sense of political despair, but nothing could prepare them for the grim news of a second coronavirus lockdown, going into effect on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

While many citizens are struggling to make sense of the new instructions, the country’s Health Ministry has reported yet another record high of new daily infections (4,973 at the time of writing), making Israelis feel that despite the upcoming feast, there isn’t really much to celebrate.

This ongoing spike is what prompted the government to impose a second lockdown, scheduled to last through the entire three-week Jewish High Holiday season. But it has resulted in a particularly gloomy atmosphere, atypical for this otherwise warm, cheerful time of year.

Read the full story.

09:41 AM

Comment: Italians seem to think face masks make them invincible

My colleague Emma Cooke has just returned from Italy where she was left perturbed by the country’s approach to face coverings:

In the UK, I’d thought mask wearing was pretty prevalent. Coming out of Naples airport, I realised I’d been woefully naive. Grateful to whip my mask off after a long and hot journey wearing it, I looked around to see that few were doing the same, despite being in the fresh air. 

In Italy mask wearing outside is mandatory when “in proximity of locations and premises that are open to the public, as well as in public spaces whose physical characteristics may facilitate the formation of gatherings of both spontaneous and/or occasional nature.” This only applies between the hours of 6pm and 6am – coronavirus sleeps during the daytime, you see – so we should have been in the clear. Playing it safe, I put my mask back on – at least until out of sight of the airport. But as we moved away from the crowds, I was surprised to see few besides us removing their masks, even in the 30C heat.

To be clear, I’m not an avid anti-masker. They’re not comfortable, but I’m perfectly happy to follow rules if they’ll help people stay safe. Besides, wearing a mask is a cheap price to pay for a holiday on Italy’s beautiful coast. But it’s difficult not to wonder at the wisdom of an unrelenting devotion to mask-wearing above all else, especially outside, when an array of evidence shows the risk of catching Covid there is minimal. 

Read Emma’s full piece.

09:28 AM

Growing number of countries support international airport testing scheme, says WTTC chief

Gloria Guevara, chief executive and president of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), comments on the news that the G20 is considering an international airport scheme to sidestep quarantine:

[A testing regime] before departure is crucial to resume international travel. This is the best way to [avoid importing] cases, but also be able to travel with people that tested negative, which will allow us to bring back million of jobs and support the recovery

More and more countries are adopting the measure due to strong evidence, but still a common international testing protocol and more internal coordination is needed , which will allow a recovery in a [shorter] time frame than without it. We see some positive indications with several countries supporting this and welcome recent announcement

09:18 AM

Wuhan resumes international flights after eight month pause

Wuhan, the Chinese city worst-hit by Covid-19, has welcomed its first international passenger in eight months.

The flight, operated by South Korean carrier T’way, landed in Wuhan Tianhe International Airport today with 60 passengers, including 11 South Koreans, on board.

All passengers had to provide a nucleic acid test certificate with negative result issued within 72 hours of departure by a hospital designated by the Chinese Embassy in South Korea.

T’way, which suspended flights to Wuhan in January, will operate one round-trip flight every week between the Chinese airport and Incheon International Airport, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The airport in the central Chinese city, which was placed under lockdown after authorities detected the country’s first COVID-19 cases, saw the numbers of domestic flights and passengers return to 2019 levels last week.

09:10 AM

Thomas Cook relaunched as online-only tour operator

Thomas Cook has relaunched as an online-only travel company, exactly one year after its collapse. The 178-year-old brand was bought by Chinese firm Fosun Travel Group for £11 million following its demise, which left 150,000 holidaymakers stranded overseas. 

Relaunching today, it will sell holidays online and over the phone – but will not have a presence on the high street. It has retained the brand’s logo, and employs just 50 people – a far cry from the 9,000 jobs that were axed last year.

The company is currently only selling holidays to beach resort destinations with no quarantine or FCO restrictions – including Italy, Barbados, and some areas of Greece. 

Alan French, Thomas Cook’s new UK Chief Executive, addressed the difficulties of launching a travel company amid the pandemic: “We know Brits are keen to travel but feel nervous about safety and any changes to Government rules on quarantine. We are only selling destinations on the travel corridor list and all the hotels are flexible.”

Read the full story.

09:02 AM

Latvia reduces quarantine to 10 days for British travellers

Latvia has announced that from September 17 it will reduce the quarantine period for arrivals from countries it deems ‘high risk’ from 14 days to to 10 days. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advice for Latvia states:

  • From 17 September, asymptomatic travellers arriving in Latvia from the UK are required to self-isolate for 10 days

  • From 16 July, all passengers are required on arrival to complete and hand to their transport provider a contact form giving contact details, listing the countries visited in the previous 14 days, and undertaking to comply with the epidemiological security measures established in Latvia

Latvia is included on the UK’s travel “green list”.

08:54 AM

‘We’re still fighting for our survival’, BA boss tells Transport Select Committee

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee that the coronavirus pandemic is “the worst crisis for BA”.

Mr Cruz said:

Covid has devastated our business, our sector, and we’re still fighting for our own survival.

Just to give you some figures as you asked. Last week, we flew approximately 187,000 passengers in the different flights we had in and out of the UK.

The same week in the previous year, we flew just under a million passengers. So we are running between 25-30 per cent of the normal flight schedule and this is six months into the pandemic.

The relationship is very clear. Fewer passengers means fewer flights, and fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.

As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast.

Alex Cruz: Airport testing teams are standing idle while our Government sits on its hands

08:47 AM

Ministers face fresh calls for airport Covid tests in Scotland

The Scottish Government is facing renewed calls to introduce a coronavirus testing regime for airports, reports the PA.

Labour has demanded that ministers introduce a “robust” system, with passengers tested on arrival in Scotland and  follow-up checks carried out later.

The party’s transport spokesman Colin Smyth insisted a testing scheme was needed amid job losses across the aviation sector.

Mr Smyth insisted that the current Scottish Government quarantine system – which sees those arriving in Scotland from countries deemed to be Covid-19 hotspots required to self isolate for 14 days – was “not fit for purpose”.

The Telegraph is campaigning for quarantine to be scrapped through airport testing.

08:37 AM

Sweden records lowest number of daily cases since March

Sweden has seen its fewest daily cases of Covid-19 since March.

The country was initially criticised for not implementing the lockdown measures seen elsewhere in Europe, but is now recording significantly fewer cases than European hotspots. Its rolling seven-day average stood at 108 on Tuesday.

Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart – Cases default

Read more: What life is really like in lockdown-free Sweden

Read more: Here in Sweden we’re playing the long game, and listening to science not fear

08:31 AM

European Commission extends waiver of airport slot rule

A rule that forces airlines to use their airport slots or face losing them is being waived until March, 2021. 

European Commissioner for Transport Adina Iona Vălean announced the move on Monday after calls from aviation industry groups to extend the waiver, which was due to expire in October

Airports association ACI Europe warned that a failure to grant the waiver of the EC’s 80-20 ‘use-it-or-slot-it’ slots rule would “paralyse the winter-planning process”.

08:20 AM

Which countries could be quarantined next?

Tomorrow will bring the Government’s latest review of its quarantine policy. Denmark looks set to be added to the travel “red list”. Here’s how other countries are faring: 

Which countries could be quarantined next: Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker
Which countries could be quarantined next: Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker

08:17 AM

G20 leaders to consider international plan for airport coronavirus testing

An international airport testing regime to enable travellers to sidestep quarantine is to be considered by G20 leaders, reports Charles Hymas.

The plan, proposed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), would mean that travellers from “low-risk” countries could avoid quarantine altogether if they arrived with a negative test result.

Those coming from countries with a rate above 25 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people would have to take a second test after three to four days which, if negative, would release them from quarantine.

Around 120 bosses of the world’s biggest travel and aviation businesses – including airlines such as BA, tour operators including TUI, hotel groups and international airports – have backed the plan.

Read the full story.

08:10 AM

Airlines have escaped fines for breaking UK law for 17 years, says Which?

No airlines have been fined in the UK for breaking consumer law since 2003, according to research by consumer group Which?

The group claimed its analysis shows that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should be given enhanced powers to crack down on carriers that fail to give passengers the refunds and compensation they are entitled to.

Which? said that since the CAA was granted regulatory powers to seek enforcement orders in 2003, no airline has been fined in the UK.

Only one application for such action has been made in that time, which was against Ryanair in 2018 over an allegation that the carrier it refused to compensate passengers for delays caused by industrial action by its staff. That case has yet to be heard in court.

08:02 AM

More long-haul destinations must be removed from quarantine list, says travel expert

While an increasing number of longer-haul destinations get ready to welcome back tourists, many are yet to be added to the UK’s travel ‘green list’.

Paul Charles, travel expert and the CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, says:

It’s vital to see more long-haul destinations being removed from the quarantine list as case numbers fall – the likes of Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Rwanda are candidates for now being exempt and turned “green”. The travel sector is being badly hurt by the lack of long-haul options available. These countries have exceptional healthcare facilities for international visitors and have done a good job of managing down Covid-19 case numbers.

We need the UK government to roll-out a clear traveller testing plan – now is the time to introduce a combination of checking for negative test certificates on arrival into the UK and secondary tests just five days later. This would be the biggest fillip to the sector alongside relaxing FCDO non-essential travel advice.

07:58 AM

What happened yesterday? 

  • New rules could put trips to Italy and Greece off the menu for Irish holidaymakers

  • Jet2.com has added more flights to Turkey to cope with rising demand

  • Finland is to ease restrictions on UK tourists in November

  • Mexico has reopened its famous Mayan ruins

  • Singapore Airlines is offering ‘flights to nowhere’

​Now onto today’s news

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