Follow all the latest news and updates from the travel industry on the coronavirus outbreak.
Travel Weekly has created a dedicated resource hub for the travel trade with advice and guidance from industry partners to give practical help to businesses during the ongoing crisis. View it here
Thursday, April 16
Chief executive Johan Lundgren forecasts restrictions on domestic flying will be lifted first, but with social distancing measures in place at airports and on flights for an unspecified time.
Wednesday, April 15
Jordan, Lebanon and Israel introduced for 2021. Global sales director John Warr said: “We will be adding more again. We are confident about the future but we know it will be tough and we think people may want to stay a little closer to home once this is over.”
Senior figures at the carrier are hopeful the UK government will make a decision by the end of this week on an appeal for state aid.
Virgin Atlantic is seeking a £500 million bailout, split between a commercial loan and a credit guarantee to release funds from card companies withholding payments.
World Travel & Tourism Council president and chief executive Gloria Guevara made the gesture on behalf of travel companies throughout the globe’s private sector.
US airlines have agreed a $25 billion financial lifeline deal with Washington to help towards survival through the coronavirus crisis.
The rescue package is part of a $2 trillion emergency relief bill agreed by the US government last month.
The luxury line’s five ships will not operate up until June 30.
“The decision is a proactive response to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global response to the Covid-19 situation,” the Carnival Corporation-owned company said.
Princess Cruises is paring back its presence in Alaska this summer and delaying the launch of new ship Enchanted Princess.
The action is being taken as the US line extends the suspension of all cruises until June 30 in continued response to the impact of the global outbreak of coronavirus.
The fresh cancellations follow the 17-ship company previously announcing a two-month pause in operations between March 12 and May 10.
Tuesday April 14
Right to Refund campaign founder Kane Pirie accuses CAA of going missing at a time of ‘carnage’ in latest Travel Weekly Webcast.
Consumer association updates article relating to customers’ refund rights for holidays cancelled as a result of coronavirus.
Iata has updated its estimate from the 44% fall ($252 billion in lost revenues) it predicted on March 24, which was based on a scenario with severe travel restrictions lasting three months.
SPAA says agents in Scotland can only claim one grant per business rather than £25,000 per branch, as is the case for the rest of the UK. Association has made an urgent appeal to first minister Nicola Sturgeon to address the ‘inequality’.
An updated simplified approach for rebooking and refunds on tickets issued in all global markets has been introduced in an update of Emirates’ Covid-19 travel waiver policies.
Three options are being offered by the Dubai-based carrier to customers affected by flight cancellations and travel restrictions.
They can keep their ticket for up to two years, request a travel voucher or apply for a refund, although these are likely to take time to process due to a backlog of requests.
Celebrity Cruises is ramping up initiatives to help agents while claiming “positive demand” for 2021 sailings.
The line’s liaison with the trade is being stepped up despite cruises remaining suspended due to the global coronavirus crisis.
Celebrity Cruises, along with the rest of the Royal Caribbean group, have extended a ‘cruise with confidence’ cancellation policy to allow the flexibility to decide to cancel up to 48-hours prior to departure for any sailing departing on-or-before September 1.
Heathrow and Dublin are among destinations to be served by a new series of special passenger flights organised by Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi.
The London flights will run on April 16, 17 and 18 using a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner.
Dublin will be served by a Boeing 777-300ER on April 15, 20 and 22.
Up to 1,000 job cuts are being made as Wizz Air faces a profits crunch of up to €80 million due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis over the past three months.
The Hungarian budget carrier warned that its net profit for the year to March 31 would be down to between €270 million-€280 million from previous guidance of up to €355 million.
Traffic in March fell by 34% year-on-year while the airline is operating just 3% of its pre-Covid-19 capacity.
Wizz Air is making 1,000 redundancies – representing 19% of its workforce – while salaries of pilots, cabin crew and office staff will be reduced by an average of 14%.
A cruise ship, which sailed from Thailand almost a month ago on repatriation voyage, was due back in the UK today (Tuesday).
Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ vessel Columbus was carrying 907 passengers including 602 British nationals and 619 crew on the 7,842-nautical mile journey from Phuket.
European president Ursula von der Leyen has struck a blow against hopes of late-summer bookings to the Mediterranean being fulfilled with a warning against planning holidays this year.
Von der Leyen told German tabloid newspaper Bild: “At the moment, no one can make reliable forecasts for July and August.
“I would advise everyone to wait before making holiday plans.”
Royal Caribbean boss Richard Fain quotes Winston Churchill is his latest video update to the trade on the global cruise ship shutdown.
The chairman and chief executive of Royal Caribbean Cruises quoted the British wartime leader following the battle of El Alamain in 1942 by saying: “This is not the end, it’s not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Carnival Cruise Line has extended the suspension of sailings until June 27.
The US line initially paused operations last month along with other brands under the Carnival Corporation umbrella.
Polish carrier LOT has pulled out of a deal to buy failed Thomas Cook’s former German airline Condor.
State-run Polish Aviation Group (PGL), which owns LOT, agreed in January to buy Condor for about €300 million, potentially creating a leading European aviation group with more than 20 million passengers a year.
But the company spokeswoman said: “I confirm that PGL informed Condor today about its withdrawal from the purchase of this company.”
Heathrow is to reduce passenger operations into just two terminals as business drops by at least 90%.
Passenger numbers more than halved in March as the UK entered lockdown to counter the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures released today show that the level of passengers handled shrunk by 52% year-on-year to 3.1 million.
Monday, April 13
The government of Gibraltar has warned Britons not to attempt to visit holiday homes in Spain via the land border.
It also said British travellers attempting to return on British Airways services should enter Gibraltar from Spain on the day of departure and will be required to present evidence of a confirmed flight booking.
EasyJet founder and leading stakeholder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has hit out at the airline’s deferral of aircraft orders, accusing the carrier of “kicking the can down the road”.
Low-cost giant easyJet announced last week that it would defer delivery of 24 Airbus aircraft over the next two years as the carrier conserves funds and reins in post-Covid crisis expansion plans.
However, Sir Stelios pointed out easyJet has more than 100 aircraft on order.
Customer refunds and card chargebacks dominate queries to industry advice portal Rebound Consulting, according to founders Steve Endacott, Seamus Conlon and Will Waggott.
The three industry executives launched the Rebound consultancy to offer free travel business advice at the end of March.
They highlight refunds as the issue most troubling tour operators and retailers seeking advice, with operators struggling to recover deposits paid to hotels or event organisers and forced to defer bookings or issue credit notes.
Tui has quashed claims that its board of directors have refused to take a pay cut while 11,000 staff are furloughed.
A Mail on Sunday article said the company’s ‘top brass’ would be receiving full pay, but no bonuses, while furloughed staff took home 80% of their wages.
But Tui told Travel Weekly that executive directors had agreed to a 30% reduction in their basic salary as well as being unlikely to receive bonuses this year.
Sunday, April 12
People should not feel guilty about reaching out for help and advice about mental health wellbeing during the coronavirus crisis.
Isolation, debt, anxiety and stress can all be exacerbated by the onset of social distancing and working remotely from colleagues, a panel discussing mental health in a Travel Weekly webcast said.
P&O Cruises has asked customers to “bear with us” on refunds as contact centre staff working from home are facing more than three times as many enquiries as normal during the coronavirus pandemic.
President Paul Ludlow posted two videos on Twitter where he answered thousands of questions for the line from customers concerned about refunds, the ongoing sailing suspensions and on board operations after the crisis is over.
British Airways has written a poem to its customers.
The poem was performed by members of the airline’s staff including cabin crew, ground handlers, pilots and chief executive Alex Cruz with a video compiled.
Group chief executive writes to chancellor Rishi Sunak lobbying for government support of the airline to see it through the coronavirus pandemic.
Saturday, April 11
A travel industry campaign backing consumers’ right to a holiday refund has reiterated its call for a July 31 deadline after reports the date could be extended.
VIVID Travel owner Kane Pirie updated the It’s Right to Refund campaign message just two days after launch, saying it would only continue to back Abta’s stance if it stuck to a repayment date of July 31.
Aviation bodies have called on the government to extend its support and act in a more coordinated way to help businesses in the sector.
ADS, Airlines UK and the Airport Operators Association have made a joint plea to government for help before companies face difficult decisions affecting their workforces.
Reuben’s Retreat has received £98,700 to fund two of its staff at the charity for two years.
The grant from media and entertainment group Global’s official charity Make Some Noise was one of 32 hand-outs to small UK charities and projects and comes as the charity gives ‘virtual’ support to 143 families during the coronavirus pandemic.
The role of Harriet Pratt, children and young people’s champion at Reuben’s Retreat, is being funded by the grant while family champion Deborah Thebould-Ho’s role is being part-funded.
UK coastal resorts reliant on seasonal holidaymakers face the threat of becoming “ghost towns” as people stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown.
Destinations heavily dependent on the summer peak season fear plummeting visitor numbers in the months ahead, pushing businesses and jobs to the brink.
Flight Centre has released a video highlighting how its staff are working remotely to continue handling travel enquiries during the coronavirus lockdown.
The ‘Open up the world’ clip was posted on YouTube on Friday offering inspiration for future travels while emphasising the need to stay at home during the crisis.
Celestyal Cruises has extended the suspension of sailings by two months until the end of June.
The Greek specialist originally suspended operations on March 11 until May 1 but that period has now been extended until June 29.
A dozen new government rescue flights are being deployed to repatriate thousands of Britons stranded in India due to global coronavirus travel restrictions.
More than 3,000 people will be flown home over the next week in addition to 2,000 due to fly back on seven charter flights already launched from Goa, Mumbai and New Delhi.
The first of 19 charters from India arrived at Stansted on Thursday morning, bringing back 317 from Goa.
Consumers forced to abandon this year’s holiday plans because of the coronavirus lockdown are being urged not to lose their deposits without speaking to their travel agent first.
An independent travel agency, with 14 advisers and 61 years experience between its co-owners, insists that people do not have to give up the deposits for their holidays despite all travel plans being on hold.
The co-owners of Travel the Globe say some are just writing off their deposits, and taking the view that they will only think about a holiday once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Friday, April 10
The founder of Traveleyes has thanked the NHS for its “amazing work” as he battles coronavirus in Leeds General Infirmary.
Amar Latif tweeted from his hospital bed having spent six days receiving treatment for the deadly virus.
He said he hoped his release from hospital was imminent but described his experience as “terrifying”.
Variety Cruises vessel Panorama embarked on a 14-day diversion to help repatriate 19 Cuban crew from an MSC Cruises ship.
Panorama had spent the winter season cruising off the coast of Costa Rica and Panama and was due to travel to Europe for a season in the Mediterranean. Pausing for a stop in Barbados, the ship berthed close to 4,360 passenger MSC Preziosa.
Following a request from Cuban Government officials, Panorama‘s captain Vasilis Mazarakis agreed to repatriate 19 Cuban crew members to Havana. The group were thermo-scanned prior to boarding an on every subsequent day of the seven day long journey.
French police have turned away a group of holidaymakers who flew to the country on a private jet from the UK.
Seven men and three women reportedly flew into Marseille-Provence airport where they were due to transfer to a helicopter bound for a luxury villa in Cannes. The group, Ade up of several nationalities including Croatian, German, French, Romanian and Ukrainian, were refused permission to enter France and ordered to fly back to the UK.
Abta chief executive has Mark Tanzer has said travel companies should not be denying customers their right to a refund, but he called for more time to be able to give refunds.
Speaking to BBC News this morning Tanzer said firms “do owe the customer a refund, and the customer has to have that right and we will make sure Abta members follow that rule.
“What we are asking for is more time to be able to give the refund. Some companies are absolutely denying those rights altogether and we completely refute that.
Scottish agents have appealed to the Chancellor for help to save the industry after Foreign Office advice against travel indefinitely prompted a “frenzy of concerns”.
In the latter the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) tells Rishi Sunak that “critical measures are urgently needed to protect and save the travel industry”.
An extension has been announced to the ‘no sail order’ for cruise ships by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC has implemeted the no sail order for at least 100 days or until US health bodies declare the pandemic over.
And it criticised the cruise industry for not doing a sufficient job to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its ships.
The government’s COVID-19 Staff Retention Scheme does not fully work for travel businesses and would lead to an “unholy car crash” if agencies were to furlough all their staff.
Speaking on Travel Weekly’s latest Coronavirus Webcast, Tailor Made Travel chief executive Simon Morgan said: “The Tourism Minister recently classified destination management organisations as crucial business support workers.
“Travel agents should be viewed the same. We have furloughed about 85% of our staff and the team we have left definitely aren’t making money. They are processing refunds and battling with clients’ arguments with tour operators.
A travel agent has credited the joint efforts of trade partners for rescuing a couple stuck in Australia.
Ken Garrity, owner of Altrincham-based Ken Garrity Travel, contacted his clients, on a First Class Holidays trip in Australia, as soon as airlines began to cancel flights.
But he soon realised he faced a battle against time to get them home as airlines stopped services with little notice due to the coronavirus crisis.
Europe’s largest low cost airline, Ryanair, faces demands to offer refunds to customers in financial difficulty after an apparent change of tack in policy.
The Irish Times reported that although the carrier won praise for its initial stance to refund customers, it is now asking customers by email to accept a voucher valid for 12 months.
British Airways is flying vital medical supplies from China as the UK continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Boeing 777 was loaded with ventilators as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) including goggles, face guards and gowns and set off from Shanghai for Heathrow.
Crystal Expedition Cruises has postponed the launch of its luxury expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor.
The line said the temporary closure of the MV Werften shipyards as a result of the coronavirus pandemic had led to the delay.
Delivery of the ship, which had been due to launch this August, has been pushed back with scheduled itineraries through to October 31 cancelled. Endeavor’s maiden voyage will now be the Tasmania & Fjords of New Zealand 14-night cruise embarking on November 14, 2020.
EasyJet has deferred the delivery of 24 new aircraft as it conserves funds and reins in post-Covid crisis expansion plans in anticipation of reduced demand.
The low-cost giant announced the deferrals of 10 Airbus aircraft this year, 12 in 2021 and two in 2022, with an option to defer an additional five orders.
The carrier also noted operating leases on 24 existing aircraft would come up for renewal within the next 16 months, giving scope to further reduce its fleet.
Flexibility on balance due dates, better automation of communication channels, scheduled calls for the emergency escalation of urgent issues and directories of contacts still working are some of the requests made of suppliers by agents during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston says he has ‘no doubt that innovative, fantastic and thriving sector will recover’
Agents are having to “be vague”, put customers in a “holding pattern” and “sit on the fence” over refunds on cancelled holidays due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Not Just Travel founder Steve Witt told a Travel Weekly Webcast: “The only thing we can be confident about is not having a definitive answer for people.”
Lucy Huxley speaks to Paul Hardwick, Fred Olsen Travel; Simon Morgan, Tailor Made Travel; and Steve Witt, Not Just Travel, about their approach to the coronavirus crisis
Find more webcasts in our Coronavirus Resource Centre.
A number of tourist boards and travel suppliers have begun creating a series of inspirational videos to offer a message of hope and support for the trade amid the coronavirus crisis.
See their videos here.
The campaign founded by VIVID Travel founder Kane Pirie to oppose legal amendments to the Package Travel Regulations will now back Abta’s stance on temporary changes to allow travel firms to stay afloat.
In an open letter, Pirie said that in light of “a regulator missing in action and a mute government”, Abta’s proposal to allow firms to issue credit notes for refunds to be paid at a later date was “the best option we have available”.
Pirie added that the focus of the It’s Right to Refund campaign would now be tour operators choosing to act outside both the PTRs and Abta’s proposed alternative structure and offering vouchers with no refund option.
Abta has postponed its overseas Travel Convention for a year and will instead hold a UK-based event at a similar time in the autumn.
The 2020 Travel Convention due to take place in Marrakech in early October will now take place in 2021.
Furloughed staff should not be doing any work, explains Travlaw head of employment Ami Naru
Asian cruise group Genting Cruise Lines plans to heighten safety levels for passengers and crew when sailings resume following the coronavirus crisis.
The measures include stringent health screening and protocols prior to embarkation and disembarkation for the Hong Kong-based group’s Dream Cruises and Star Cruises brands.
The Latin American Travel Association has created a government petition to urge the government to temporarily suspend aspects of the Package Travel Regulations.
The association has lent its support to calls to relax demands on travel companies to give them a better chance of surviving the coronavirus crisis.
Intrepid Travel has launched a community engagement initiative to help its customers stay connected during the travel restrictions imposed to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The tour operator has turned over its social media channels to 100% user-generated content, under the hashtag #BeTogether.
Tributes have been paid to former Thomson Holidays agency training manager Sian Idris-Evans who died on Tuesday after contracting Covid-19.
Idris-Evans, 56, started out as an overseas rep in the 1980s but was best known for her time running Thomson’s training for Lunn Poly shops and the Thomson Holidays educational programme for agents.
Australian agency Flight Centre Travel Group has secured A$900 million to strengthen its position in reaction to the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
The additional funding means the group’s total liquidity position now amounts to more than A$2.3 billion.
A travel agent has encouraged Jet2holidays to prioritise the rebooking of an NHS nurse working in an intensive care unit and her husband who works as a supermarket delivery driver.
Jo Boden, of Your Holiday Booking, called for help from fellow travel industry professionals on social media for the couple, who had booked direct.
Airline crew from across the industry are volunteering to form ‘Project Wingman’ to support the well-being of frontline NHS staff during the coronavirus crisis.
More than 1,200 crew have responded to the “call to arms” while the majority of flights are grounded due to global travel restrictions.
A glimmer of optimism has emerged over future travel bookings with new data suggesting many consumers think it will be safe to take trips abroad by the autumn.
Global polling by flight search firm Skyscanner of more than 7,500 people found that 75% believe it will be safe for overseas travel within six months.
The Covid-19 crisis will see the government demand airlines recapitalise as the banks were made to after the 2008 financial crash, the boss of The Travel Network Group has said.
Speaking in a Travel Weekly webcast, Gary Lewis, chief executive of the Worldchoice and TTA parent, said the pandemic will raise the issue of trust accounts and protecting customer money.
“Trust accounts will be one of the big conversations, and maybe now’s not the time, but certainly it will come in the next three, four, five, six months,” he said.
The travel industry has been urged to speak with one voice about the need to amend package travel rules to avoid wholesale insolvencies which would leave customers out of pocket.
Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, told a Covid-19 Travel Weekly webcast that the industry needs to be honest with consumers about their options for getting their cash back.
Airbus has confirmed plans to cut production by a third in the face of the “unprecedented” impact of the coronavirus crisis.
The European manufacturer has been forced to react to requests from airlines to defer deliveries due to global travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
Trainline is furloughing staff, cutting executive salaries and deferring bonuses to slash costs in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
The online rail and coach travel platform has been forced to take “quick and decisive measures” due to a “significant fall” in passenger numbers over the past month as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Other measures include pausing marketing and other discretionary spend, a recruitment freeze and revising payment terms with some suppliers.
United Airlines faces a class action lawsuit in the US from passengers demanding to be refunded for cancelled flights due to the coronavirus crisis.
United refused to issue cash refunds to passengers with cancelled flights after it slashed it schedules, and instead offered customers travel vouchers, which expire in one year from the original ticket date.
Passengers claim they have lost a total combined amount of $5million in a lawsuit obtained by DailyMail.com.
Travel companies across Europe are being forced to flout Package Travel Directive (PTD) rules on consumer refunds or face financial ruin.
The governments of Italy, France, Belgium and Denmark have confirmed vouchers will suffice in place of cash refunds despite the PTD requiring consumers be refunded within 14 days.
The German government is pressing the European Commission to sanction a relaxation of the rules and Abta has lobbied the UK government to do the same.
Hoseasons is not accepting new travel agent bookings “until further notice” while it deals with existing bookings affected by the current coronavirus crisis.
The tour operator said its staff were currently tied up looking after existing customers and rebooking both trade and direct holidays which are due to travel before May 21.
Agents fear their jobs will get tougher in the coming weeks as large numbers of their supplier contacts are furloughed through the government’s Job Retention Scheme.
Operators have deactivated phone numbers and emails for their trade sales and on-the-road teams and some have shut their travel agent Facebook pages to adhere to the rules of the government’s furlough scheme.
Tui has clarified that it is offering refunds to customers whose holidays are cancelled as a result of coronavirus, but admitted a delay in the process.
Consumer organisation Which? yesterday hit out at the UK’s biggest travel company, saying that it has failed to provide information about customers’ rights to refunds when it extended the suspension of its beach and cruise programmes because of travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus.
In a statement sent to Travel Weekly, Tui said its first port of call was amending holidays for a future date, but made clear refunds are still an option.
Bugdte carrier aims to secure NOK3 billion (£240 million) in state aid in Norway by converting a portion of its debt to equity to meet the requirements for a loan guarantee.
However, a senior investment analyst described it as “a last throw of the dice” by Norwegian Air, which went into the Covid-19 crisis already in financial trouble.
Australian police have raided Ruby Princess to seize its ‘black box’ and questioned crew over the docking and disembarkation of passengers in Sydney three weeks ago.
The Princess Cruises ship has been linked to hundreds of coronavirus cases and 15 deaths across the country.
Wednesday, April 8
Government refunds decision to come “aquickly as possible”
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the government is hoping to reach a decision on the policy of refunding travel plans “as quickly as possible”.
Hunt, MP for South West Surrey and foreign secretary from 2018-19, wrote to Haslemere Travel owner Gemma Atrobus, who had contacted him as part of Abta’s Save Future Travel campaign.
But he warned that the “complexity of the sector” meant “a one size fits all approach doesn’t seem to be appropriate”.
Consolidation is expected in the travel sector as strong firms that emerge from the COVID-19 crisis go on an acquisition trail.
Alistair Rowland, Abta chairman and chief retail officer for specialist business at Midcounties Co-operative, said he expects a lot of changes in the industry due to the pandemic.
EasyJet Holidays has put its summer 2021 programme on sale early.
The release of its programme is aimed at inspiring new bookings but also to give customers with existing bookings affected by the coronavirus pandemic more options to rebook.
Scenic, Great Rail Journeys and AmaWaterways have all prolonged their pause on operations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Zest Car Rental is calling on fellow car rental firms to refund all customers’ cancellations of pick-ups until the end of May.
The car hire broker says it will automatically process refund requests with no charge up to that date and promised to extend the policy if the Covid-19 lockdown continues.
More than 13,000 people emailed their local MP on the first day of Abta’s Save Future Travel campaign.
The association thanked everyone who had shown support for the “phenomenal” response to its grassroots campaign but urged the industry to “keep up the momentum”.
Abta has created a template letter for industry professionals, as well as their friends and family, which they are urged to send to their local MPs via its website savefuturetravel.co.uk, which 20 travel companies have put their names behind.
A long-stay car park at Gatwick is to be used as a drive-through testing centre as part of action to fight coronavirus.
The site is opening on Wednesday, initially for use by NHS staff and invited key workers.
Interest free loans of up to £750 are being offered to staff working for operator, agency and homeworking firm Kosmar to help them through “uncertain times”.
Flexible re-payment plans mean that re-payments do not start until August.
The offer of loans follows the payment of a £350 bonus several weeks ago to help with the immediate financial impact of coronavirus.
VIVID Travel owner Kane Pirie has stepped up his opposition to a change in Package Travel Regulations by launching a campaign and petition urging people to back his Right to Refund message.
Pirie, who has promised to refund all VIVID customers, has previously said that changes to the PTRs would be “unnecessary madness” and fundamentally undermine trust in the travel industry.
The Lata Expo tradeshow has been postponed from June and is now expected to take place between October 27-29.
The event had been due to be held in London from June 6-9, with subsequent events in Amsterdam and Paris during the following week.
The Pacific Asia Travel Association has launched a Business Impact Survey to gauge the effect of the coronavirus crisis on the global travel industry.
The anonymous survey will allow Pata and partner destination management organisations, governments and associations to understand how the pandemic is impacting businesses and will shape lobbying efforts for effective responses.
Members of the UK’s biggest union have overwhelmingly voted to back a British Airways deal to furlough workers and preserve jobs.
Staff in the Unite union voted by 99% in favour in a ballot after the proposal was thrashed out last Thursday following long negotiations but remained subject to approval by a ballot of members.
The agreement aims to preserve jobs in the light of most flights being cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.
Abta’s Save Future Travel campaign is expected to have an impact on government if everyone in the industry gets behind it and lobbies their local MP.
Yesterday, the trade body launched its latest bid to pressure the UK government to change the rules on refunds for cancelled holidays as travel firms fight for survival.
Alistair Rowland, Abta chairman, praised the government lobbying work of the association but said a bottom-up grass roots movement will make a difference.
Agents have backed Abta’s Save Future Travel grassroots campaign but some warned it does not go far enough to force the government’s hand on key issues such as refunds.
Save Future Travel calls on anyone employed in the sector, and friends and family, to lobby their MP to ensure the government upholds its promise to do “whatever it takes” to protect jobs and businesses.
Tui has extended the suspension of its beach and cruise programmes following updated FCO advice.
It also confirmed the launch of Tui River Cruise scheduled for last month will now take place on November 26.
The operator’s beach holidays up to and including May 14 have been suspended, while Marella Cruise itineraries up to and including May 31 will no longer operate.
Refinancing of airlines should open the way for cash to become available to refund holidaymakers, according to Abta chairman Alistair Rowland.
Speaking to Travel Weekly in our latest Covid-19 webcast, the chief retail officer for specialist business at Midcounties Co-operative said he expected cash to be released.
He said he expected refinancing agreements reached by the likes of easyJet, Tui Group and Virgin Atlantic would tackle their reticence to offer cash refunds
EasyJet founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou today blasted the budget carrier for maintaining a huge order for new aircraft while agreeing a £600 million government loan.
He accused the airline of borrowing the money from the UK taxpayer to help pay Airbus billions of pounds for new aircraft.
Sir Stelios urged the airline to terminate the £4.5 billion Airbus outlay “for easyJet to survive”
On the Beach today highlighted the ability of its trust account model to refund customers for cancelled holidays with little impact on its finances.
The OTA also revealed that it had agreed with its bank to extend the term of a £50 million revolving credit facility until the end of 2023.
Boss Simon Cooper called on the industry to “reflect on financial protection” and how it can be made “robust enough to withstand future shocks”.
The Foreign Office decision to extend advice against overseas travel “for an indefinite period” ratcheted up the pressure on agents and operators, opening the way to millions more refund demands.
The change on April 4 came as the government continued to dither over suspending the Package Travel Regulations’ (PTRs) requirement to refund consumers within 14 days.
The Department for Business (BEIS), which oversees the PTRs, has been pondering for weeks whether to allow businesses to defer refunds by issuing refund credit notes in the place of cash, as Abta has demanded.
Credit card chargebacks may now pose the biggest risk to agents struggling to meet consumer demands for refunds.
Companies following Abta guidance to issue refund credit notes in place of cash refunds to avoid going bust may simply find frustrated consumers reclaim payments on credit cards which card-issuing banks refund and then charge back to the travel firm.
More than half of the 217 people on board an expedition cruise ship stuck in South America have been tested positive for coronavirus.
British passengers are among those on board Aurora Expeditions vessel Greg Mortimer which has been held off the coast of Uruguay since March 27.
Tuesday, April 7
Webcast: Alistair Rowland
Abta chairman and Midcounties Co-operative chief retail officer for specialist business, speaks to Lucy Huxley
Charity says money would be used to help those in the travel industry suffering severe financial hardship by granting food vouchers to those in immediate need; giving financial management advice including on debt, budgeting and benefits available through charity partner Citizens Advice Manchester; and mental health support through The Centre for Crisis Psychology.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the funding would be available to any at-risk destination management organisation which usually receives at least half its income from commercial sources.
The annual event was due to take place from May 15-18 at the Savoy Palace on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
It will now be held in the same venue from May 21-24 2021.
The move came top of a poll of ways to “kick-start” the travel industry amid the coronavirus pandemic on trade Facebook group Travel Agent Rants and Raves.
Sandals is to offer 10% discounts for NHS workers on future holidays to thank them for their work during the coronavirus crisis.
The discount will be applicable to bookings made to Sandals and Beaches resorts in the Caribbean and is valid for accommodation-only and flight-inclusive packages.
Iata has warned that 25 million jobs could be at risk due to plummeting demand during the coronavirus crisis.
The association said new analysis showed 65.5 million people globally are dependent on the industry, including in sectors such as travel and tourism. If severe restrictions were to last for three months, it said 25 million jobs in aviation and related sectors would be in danger.
The number of UK related travel jobs has fallen by 38% since the beginning of the year, after experiencing four weeks of consecutive declines in the past month.
Decision is to be kept “under constant review” so as the airline and operator is operating in line with Foreign Office [FCO] guidance on overseas travel.
The Travel Network Group today backed calls for government to amend the Package Travel Regulations to help the travel sector through the coronavirus crisis.
The 1,000-member consortium’s chief executive today urged business secretary Alok Sharma to “make the right decision” to alter the EU rules.
Iata has written an open letter to the trade confirming the substitution of vouchers for cash refunds for cancelled flights during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The airline association also confirms these will be issued via the Iata billing and settlement plan (BSP) and calls on governments to “recognise the necessity of this approach” and lift requirements for cash refunds.
A wide-ranging group of 250 environmental groups and trades unions are urging governments not to bail out airlines facing collapse under the coronavirus crisis.
The ‘Stay Grounded’ collective covering 25 countries signed an open letter calling on nations to resist aviation lobby attempts to rush into “unfair bailouts”.
The Foreign Office has brought more than 200,000 UK citizens stranded across the world as a result of the coronavirus back to the country on repatriation flights.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the flights, in partnership with 14 airlines, included the repatriaton of 200,000 people from Spain, 13,000 from Egypt and 8,000 from Indonesia – along with about 2,000 more from seven other countries
VIVID Travel owner and managing director Kane Pirie has written to MPs to urge them to block any proposed wholesale changes to the UK Package Travel Regulations.
Pirie has previously said that changes to the PTRs would fundamentally undermine trust in the travel industry, saying that at most any amendments should relate only to an extension of the current 14-day refund deadline.
Abta is increasing pressure on MPs to support its demands to protect jobs and livelihoods in the sector with the launch of a Save Future Travel grassroots campaign.
The campaign is calling on anyone employed in the sector, their friends and families to lobby their local MPs to ensure the government sticks by its promise to protect jobs.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has acquired a minority stake in cruise giant Carnival Corporation.
The Public Investment Fund based in Riyadh disclosed that it had taken an 8.2% shareholding in the world’s largest cruise company at the end of March.
The value of the shareholding in Carnival is estimated at around $370 million
Hundreds of Stena Line staff in the UK and Ireland are being furloughed or made redundant due to the impact of coronavirus.
The Swedish owned ferry company plans to furlough 600 employees with 150 redundancies across the UK and Ireland.
Monday, April 6
Carrier secures £600m in credit through the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility and confirms it has requested to fully draw down on a $500 million revolving credit facility, secured against its aircraft assets.
Together, the additional funds would give the carrier access to cash reserves of £2.3 billion by April 9.
All expedition cruises are now suspended, until at least May 12.
Hurtigruten had already suspended Norwegian coastal voyages until April 19 and polar expedition sailings until April 28.
Click & Go has reportedly been refused a month-long break on its travel operator’s insurance despite not having any customers in April.
Closures extended across the whole of the UK from April 17 to 14 May 14.
The Bourne Leisure brands said the decision had been made following further government guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.
The low-cost carrier’s response to travel restrictions introduced by the Romanian government to contain the spread of Covid-19 applies from Monday.
The airline has been running a reduced number of three weekly flights to the Romanian capital of Bucharest from Southend airport.
A cruise line offering trips between Florida and The Bahamas has extended the suspension of sailings until early May.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, which runs two-night breaks and cruise and stay packages from Palm Beach to Nassau, aims to resume operations on May 8 with the ship Grand Celebration to coincide Mother’s Day weekend in the US.
A new travel agency which allows its agents to sell holidays while travelling the world has launched amid the coronavirus crisis.
Travelisto.com, which has joined homeworking group Travel-PA, says its ‘travel designers’ will be “hybrids between enthusiastic influencers and real travel experts”.
Travel companies are being urged to report coronavirus related cyberattacks to travel anti-fraud group Profit.
The plea comes as Profit joins the police task squad tackling coronavirus related fraud and cybercrime.
The Fraud Advisory Panel Covid-19 Task Force, which includes representatives from the City of London Police, telecommunications and broadband industry and various government departments among others, has been set up to identify coronavirus-related fraud and cyber threats aimed at businesses during the pandemic.
The owner of Southend airport is exploring funding options as it seeks to safeguard the business from the impact of coronavirus.
Stobart Group has furloughed around half of its 1,500 staff, frozen all but critical expenditure, introduced 20% pay cuts to top bosses and imposed a recruitment freeze.
Coronavirus had “profound impact” on Norwegian Air last month as it slashed capacity by 85%.
Europe’s third largest budget carrier suffered a “dramatic drop” in demand following government-imposed travel restrictions and a general travel decline.
Unveiling March traffic figures, Norwegian Air revealed that an initial 15% capacity cut was adjusted to 85% from the middle of the month.
Tui Airways cabin crew will be deployed across hospitals nationwide supporting a new St John Ambulance initiative to help tackle coronavirus by relieving pressure on the NHS.
The St John Ambulance Covid-19 volunteering scheme will place trained volunteers into essential NHS wards and departments to free up staff to fight the crisis on the frontline.
They will support with a range of tasks, from caring for the elderly to basic monitoring of patients, transporting medication and maintaining cleanliness and hygiene, helping keep the NHS running as smoothly as possible during the pandemic.
A global standard in the health screening of airline passengers should be introduced, according to the boss of Heathrow.
Worldwide collaboration on testing would “provide reassurance and confidence in flying” after the coronavirus crisis, similar to the ban on liquids and aerosols more than ten years ago.
The London hub’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said that he could “completely understand” confusion around the lack of thermal screening at British airports.
British Airways is suspending all direct flights between the UK and Japan.
The last flight from Tokyo to London will be on Wednesday (April 8).
The move comes as a state of emergency is expected to be declared in Japan following 3,600 cases of coronavirus and 85 deaths.
Sunday, April 5
xCriminal probe to be launched into Ruby Princess disembarkation
Police in Australia have announced plans for a criminal investigation into the disembarkation of passengers from Ruby Princess.
More than 600 passengers who were on board have tested positive for the coronavirus since it docked on March 19. To date 11 passengers have died.
Police in New South Wales said the investigation will look into the actions of the port authority, ambulance service, police, NSW Health and Ruby Princess parent Carnival Australia.
Airlines face calls for flights beyond April 15 being taken off sale so customers cannot make bookings for departures that are unlikely to be flown.
On Saturday, The Times, reported that bookings remain open beyond the current lockdown period in which the Foreign Office has banned all non-essential travel on leading airline websites.
EasyJet, Tui and British Airways, are still selling flights for late April and May despite the current travel restrictions likely to be extended for months.
The collapse of the UK’s aviation sector has already begun, according to the firms that provide ground handling services at airports.
Sky News has reported that it has seen a letter sent to chancellor Rishi Sunak from Dnata, Menzies Aviation, Swissport and WFS.
The firms are calling for a 12-month business rates holiday in 2020 having seen revenues collapse by 95% in the last week.
COVID-19 repatriation flights for British national stuck in India will start this week from popular destinations like Goa, Mumbai and Delhi.
But there are calls for more flights from other areas of India where people are trapped due to tight restrictions on movement and for cheaper fares.
Airline AirAsia has launched a fundraising drive to help vulnerable communities impacted by COVID-19.
The digital donation drive is being run by the Malaysian carrier’s AirAsia Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the group, and as part of its #InThisTogether campaign.
Airbus has sharply reduced the production of aircraft, according to reports, and may not fully ramp up again for years as carriers defer deliveries.
Rival Boeing has launched a voluntary redundancy programme and warned an industry recovery may take “for years to come”.
Airbus declined to comment, but business newspaper the Financial Times reported Airbus had cut output of its A320 short-haul aircraft to “well below the 60 a month achieved before the crisis”.
Princess Cruises has confirmed that its vessel Coral Princess will arrive in Port Miami on Saturday, with disembarkation of guests expected to take several days due to limited flight availability.
A statement from the line was issued on Saturday afternoon UK time, following earlier uncertainty after the US Coast Guard reportedly barred the ship form entering US territorial waters.
Coral Princess has 12 cases of Covid-19 on board, with guests requiring shoreside medical care prioritised for disembarkation.
Pilots union Balpa is urging the government to make the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme applicable to ex-Flybe staff.
Flybe entered into administration on March 5 after failing to secure a £100 million government loan. Ex-employees are reported to have been in contact with administrators Ernst & Young querying whether the business support schemes put in place by chancellor Rishi Sunak could be applicable to them.
Balpa’s general secretary Brian Strutton has written to Treasury ministers asking them to step in and support the staff who were made redundant “overnight with no notice and no consultation”.
Coronavius infected cruise ship Coral Princess is still awaiting clearance to enter the US despite hoping to dock in Port Everglades today (Saturday).
The Princess Cruises vessel has 12 cases of Covid-19 on board and had planned to arrive in the Florida port.
However, the US Coast Guard is reportedly barring the ship from entering US territorial waters as the vessel “poses an unacceptable risk of medical emergency”.
Concerns are being highlighted over the welfare of cabin crew working on the few long-haul flights still operating during the global coronavirus epidemic.
A claim has been made that a number of BA cabin crew fear they may have contracted the virus, according to the BBC.
BA said: “We follow all the guidance from the UK government and global health authorities, including Public Health England and the World Health Organisation.
“We have taken several steps to greatly reduce contact between customers and crew, and personal protective equipment is available to them.”
Emergency government rescue flights for British tourist stranded across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic are set to operate next week.
Destinations to be served on Tuesday include The Bahamas and Philippines.
Tickets for a special flight from Nassau cost £500 and £1,000 from Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Puerto Princesa and Siargao in the Philippines.
The role of chief marketing officer at easyJet is being jettisoned when post holder Lis Blair leaves the airline after eight years.
She was promoted to CMO in 2018 after the budget carrier originally said it would replace former marketing chief Peter Duffy with a chief digital officer.
The airline received confirmation on Thursday that it is eligible to access funding under the government’s covid corporate financing facility, set up to support larger companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze.
Friday April 3
Aviation industry associations across Europe issued a joint call for action to the EU and member states today demanding “quick and targeted support”.
Organisations including Airlines for Europe (A4E), Airports Council International (ACI EUROPE) and the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA) warned of “an unprecedented liquidity crisis” and said: “The catastrophic effect COVID-19 is having on aviation is clearly only at the beginning.”
Delta extends change policy
Delta Air Lines has extended its rebooking policy so passengers can change their travel plans for dates up to May 31, 2022 on travel that had originally been booked for April and May this year.
Tickets had previously had an expiration date of a year after purchase, but the airline says its policy change gives customers affected by coronavirus have more time to make a decision. Change fees had already been waived.
Virgin Atlantic organised a special charter flight carrying supplies and PPE equipment for the NHS from Shanghai to London.
The Boeing 787-9 aircraft arrived into Heathrow earlier on Friday carrying more than 350,000 supplies including respirators, ventilator parts, face masks, scrubs, aprons and eye protection.
In Travel Weekly’s latest webcast, we hear from AmaWaterways co-owner and executive vice president Kristin Karst, Avalon chief executive Giles Hawke, and Clia’s senior vice president membership, Andy Harmer.
Tour operators and travel agents are looking to replace refunds with vouchers or refund credit notes, and the governments of Italy, France, Belgium and Denmark have already confirmed vouchers will suffice in place of cash refunds despite the PTD requiring consumers be refunded within 14 days.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has urged the UK government and EU authorities to change rules around consumer refunds to alleviate pressure on the sector.
One million travel and tourism jobs are being lost in the UK, according to the organisation, with at least 6.4 million across the EU and 75 million worldwide.
Ryanair Holdings expects to report pre-exceptional after tax profit of between €950 million and €1 billion for the 12 months to March 31.
The figure is at the lower end of its previously announced guidance range due to the response of EU governments to the spread of coronavirus.
Etihad Airways plans to run an extended series of essential services from its Abu Dhabi hub.
The carrier has been operating a limited number of special flights to allow stranded passengers to return home, and to support a UAE food programme.
Coronavirus: Alfa Leisureplex Group ceases April operations
Domestic specialist Alfa Leisureplex Group has shut down its operations until the end of April and secured £1.9 million overdraft extension to cover costs.
Alfa, which has a fleet of 48 coaches and operates 22 seaside hotels in the UK, said customers – most of whom are over the age of 60 – gave them a standing ovation in some hotels when it made the announcement to temporarily cease operations.
A British Airways volunteer taskforce is being created to help the fight against the coronavirus crisis across the UK.
Cabin and flight crew aim to provide support to the NHS and other organisations.
More than two thirds of Accor’s 5,000 hotels are expected to be closed within weeks due to the deepening impact of the global coronavirus lockdown.
The French hospitality giant has furloughed 75% of head office staff in an effort to save €60 million and cut a further €60 million of expenditure in response to the crisis.
Further action to support firms affected by the coronavirus crisis is being taken by chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Business interruption loans for small businesses are being bolstered while a new scheme has been unveiled for larger companies.
Heathrow is reverting to single runway operations from Monday as coronavirus hits global airline services.
Aircraft departures and arrivals will take place on a single runway using mixed mode operations instead of operating one runway for departures and another for arrivals.
The London hub is not able to predict how long it will need to operate in this way.
Ryanair expects “minimal” carryings over two months after reporting a 48% collapse in March passenger numbers.
The impact of coronavirus airspace restrictions saw carryings by Europe’s largest budget airline group dive to 5.7 million last month over March 2019
It’s an ‘embarrassment’ and a ‘disgrace’ that airlines are refusing to pay back customer money and leaving many Atol holders on the hook, according to Travel Counsellors founder David Speakman.
Speaking in one of Travel Weekly’s Covid-19 webcasts, part of a series we are running during this crisis, Speakman likened the way airlines fund operations from customer money to a Ponzi scheme.
A support package for Travel Counsellors’ small business owners has been created by the company to help combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The dedicated welfare fund, an extension of Travel Counsellors’ benevolent fund, is designed to help business owners in financial stress due to the impact of coronavirus on their income.
Tour operators must offer a level playing field for travel agents by offering the same refund rights and reducing balance due dates for trade bookings, says the president of the SPAA.
Joanne Dooey, who owns three-branch Scottish agency Love To Travel, has called for the industry to work together to get through the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
But she said members of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) had reported tour operators giving cash refunds to direct customers while only offering rebook vouchers to travel agents.
Twelve cases of coronavirus have been confirmed on the ship Coral Princess.
It is the third Princess Cruises vessel to have contracted the deadly virus following a mass outbreak on board Diamond Princess quarantined in Japan and Grand Princess off the California coast.
The line confirmed on Thursday that Covid-19 tests confirmed 12 positive cases – seven passengers and five crew.
The saga of stranded coronavirus-hit Zaandam finally came to an end when the vessel and sister ship Rotterdam were allowed to dock in Florida following intervention from US president Donald Trump.
Coral Princess, the third Princess Cruises to be struck with the virus, is now hoping to enter Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday in the wake of the two vessels operated by sister brand Holland America Line.
A British man was among four people who died on Zaandam, which was carrying almost 230 passengers when it set off on its original South America cruise from Buenos Aires to San Antonio in Chile on March 7.
Thursday April 2
National Express suspends coach services
From April 5 all services will cease until further notice. The coach operator is longer selling tickets.
Impact of coronavirus on river cruise sector
Lucy Huxley speaks to Giles Hawke, Kristin Karst and Andy Harmer
The union representing thousands of British Airways staff says it has reached an agreement with the airline over how workers will be protected during the coronavirus crisis.
Unite said the deal would see BA introduce a “modified version” of the government’s Job Retention Scheme, so that workers will be furloughed on 80% of pay but with no cap on earnings.
The government scheme is capped at £2,500 per employee, per month.
Protected Trust Services has put together a Covid 19 Recovery Package as it reports a threefold increase in membership enquiries over the last week.
The travel protection solution company and new style ‘consortium’, which operates a trust fund model for more than 200 members, said it has had around 30 enquiries between March 23 and April 2nd from travel agencies, up from around 10 per week normally.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has donated 18,000kg of fresh food to charities in Barbados.
The food container, which comprised of 18 pallets of fruit and vegetables intended for its ship Braemer, was handed over to authorities in Bridgetown after cancelling its call at the port.
International Airlines group (IAG) has announced it will scrap dividend payments this year.
Shareholders were due to receive €0.17 euros per share but the cash will instead be added to the group’s voluntary reserve.
Latam reduces capacity by 95%
Latam Airlines Group will not operate flights to or from Europe in April as part of a 95% reduction in operations this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting travel restrictions.
The group, which saw Roberto Alvo assume the role of CEO on April 1, will operate limited frequencies between Chile, Brazil and the US.
February data from Iata shows the steepest decline in demand for air travel since 9/11, revealing a collapse in China. The International Air Transport Association warns of further drops in March figures as the “biggest crisis that the industry has ever faced” continues.
Lufthansa is to extend its repatriation flight schedule by two weeks.
The German carrier will continue its new, limited service beyond April 19 to May 3.
Almost all of the airport’s passenger stands can be seen occupied by aircraft which would usually be carrying passengers to around 200 destinations.
Thousands of Kuoni holidaymakers have been repatriated from across the world in just a few days in a race against time as borders closed and airlines cut services.
The last customer arrived back into Heathrow from the Philippines on Wednesday as staff battled against accelerating flight cancellations and travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The operator had more than 2,000 customers in more than 70 destinations round the work, from Costa Rica to Tanzania and Mexico to New Zealand.
Wizz Air saw passenger carryings collapse by more than a third in March as the impact of coronavirus on European travel took its toll.
The Hungarian budget airline was forced to cut capacity by 34% after traveller numbers fell by more than 35% year-on-year to 1.7 million.
Advantage Holidays has reduced the size of its call centre team to cut costs and moved balance due dates later in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Calls to Advantage Travel Partnership’s own tour operation are now being handled inhouse by a central, five-strong team.
The travel agency consortium had been outsourcing calls to a fufilment centre, manned by a team of eight staff.
British tourists stuck in Sri Lanka amid coronavirus restrictions have been offered the chance to catch a flight home.
Direct air links from the UK have been suspended for almost two weeks as the Sri Lankan government takes measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including a nationwide curfew.
However, Sri Lankan Airlines will operate one flight to London on April 7 before suspending services until at least April 21, the Foreign Office revealed.
Top bosses at Royal Caribbean Cruises are taking six month pay cuts amid the coronavirus crisis.
Chairman and chief executive Richard Fain has agreed to forego payment of his base salary, estimated to be worth more than $1 million.
A plan has been devised to enable coronavirus-hit ship Zaandam at the centre of a humanitarian crisis to dock at a port in Florida.
Four people including a British man have died on board the ship which is hoping to enter US waters today (Wednesday) alongside sister vessel Rotterdam.
Operator Holland America Line is awaiting confirmation to disembark passengers at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and has won the backing of president Donald Trump in its efforts.
Trust accounts are likely to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic as a preferred method for offering customers financial security, according to a leading regulatory expert.
Firms that operate trusts like Trailfinders, On The Beach and Travel Counsellors are “trumpeting” them, Chris Photi partner at White Hart Associates told a Travel Weekly COVID-19 webcast.
Saga is considering scenarios for the extended suspension all cruise and tour operations for six months due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The disclosure was made in a trading update today.
The over-50s specialist said: “Given the significant potential impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry, the group has considered scenarios for extended suspension of cruise and tour operations, including full cancellation of all travel departures over six months, followed by a slow recovery.”
As many as 36,000 British Airways staff are set to be furloughed after the coronavirus pandemic forced the grounding of most flights.
A deal is reported to have been reached with the Unite union covering up to 80% of the workforce.
Those affected are expected to receive some of their wages through the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, which covers 80% of salary capped at a maximum of £2,500 a month.
Wednesday April 1
One of the airline’s Twin Otter aircraft has been converted to allow it to carry Epishuttle isolation pods for Covid-19 patients.
The Loganair aircraft will be based at Glasgow airport but can operate throughout Scotland, and will be ready for operation from Friday.
Airbus, Rolls-Royce Holdings and Heathrow airport are among the businesses which have leant their support to calls for Virgin Atlantic to receive taxpayer support, according to Sky News.
The airline has appealed to the government for an emergency loan with a decision expected late this week or early next. A cash injection is likely to see the carrier part nationalised.
The advice came from Ian Brooks, partner and co-founder of Gail Kenny Executive Recruitment, in the latest in a series of Travel Weekly webcasts hosted during the coronavirus crisis.
White Hart Associates’ Chris Photi warns that terms being offered by banks do place a personal risk on the business owner and they will not be offered to ailing companies.
Regulators are being asked to relax their financial liquidity rules if travel firms are going to be able to take advantage of the government’s coronavirus loan scheme.
Chris Photi, senior partner at specialist accountancy firm White Hart Associates, said time was running out for many travel companies as they face financial ruin.
The UNWTO has published a set of recommendations calling for urgent support for the global tourism industry.
The recommendations have been made by the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, and have been designed to support governments, the private sector and the international community overcome challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis.
Announcement follows airlines grounding aircraft around the world.
The south-west gateway is remaining open to help maintain “vital air links” in conjunction with carriers and government departments during the coronavirus crisis.
Thousands of snack boxes have been donated by Jet2 to help charities support the elderly and the homeless in Greater Manchester and Yorkshire.
Viking is extending its reach on rivers in North America with its first custom-built vessel despite the current shutdown of operations due to coronavirus.
The company is to deploy new ship Viking Mississippi from August 2022 between New Orleans and St Paul.
Dubai’s ruler has pledged to financially protect state-owned airline Emirates from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
The head of the Gulf state committed to injecting funds into one of the world’s largest long-haul carriers.
Many of the UK’s major insurers have withdrawn from offering travel cover since the coronavirus pandemic sparked travel chaos around the world, new research reveals.
Consumer group Which? contacted 75 insurance providers to establish if and how they were amending their travel insurance provision following the coronavirus outbreak.
A total of 31 insurers, including Aviva, LV= and Direct Line, have temporarily suspended the sale of travel insurance to new customers as a result of the pandemic.
Travel firms are facing a critical few days as they battle to retain cash in their businesses and fight for survival, experts told a Travel Weekly Covid-19 webcast this week.
With many firms looking to effectively mothball their businesses they are waiting on a crucial decision over whether package travel regulations will be relaxed on offering refunds.
But the sector was warned discussions with government may not go in its favour with support for the airline sector considered more important than the travel industry.
Concern at the impact of mass claims for consumer refunds has heightened amid warnings that credit card chargebacks could “bring companies down”.
There was still no decision from the Department for Business (BEIS) on suspending the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) requirement to refund consumers for cancelled bookings within 14 days on Wednesday.
This was despite Abta making a fresh appeal in a letter to ministers on Monday, warning lack of action put businesses “on the brink”.
The European Commission is considering updating its guidance on airline refunds for cancelled flights, an issue of extreme concern to agents and tour operators.
Airline industry sources suggest the Commission is likely to temporarily modify the requirement under EC Regulation 261 on air passenger rights to refund consumers within seven days to allow the issue of credit notes or vouchers.
Carriers have been lobbying on the issue intensely in Brussels, with many airlines withholding refunds and substituting vouchers to conserve cash.
Trade leaders say agents and tour operator staff should be classed as ‘essential workers’ as they continue to rebook customers while their businesses lose money hand over fist.
Many travel firms plan to apply for the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which sees the state cover them for up to 80% of their employees’ wages if they cannot work as a result of the coronavirus.
However, some bosses say their teams are as busy as ever, but issuing refunds and processing cancellations rather than selling holidays and bringing in revenue.
Virgin Atlantic has appealed to the government for an emergency loan and is awaiting a decision expected late this week or early next, with a cash injection likely to see the carrier part nationalised.
Senior representatives of the airline met Rothschilds, the financial advisory group working with the government on support for aviation, last Friday to present the case for a loan.
A British person is among four people who have died on board coronavirus-hit cruise ship Zaandam as it tries to find a US port prepared to allow passengers off.
The ship’s operator Holland America Line confirmed that 76 passengers and 117 crew on Zaandam have influenza-like illness, including nine people who have tested positive for Covid-19.
A spokesman told Travel Weekly: “I can confirm that one of the deceased is from UK.”
Tuesday March 31
The Specialist Travel Association (Aito) is advising its tour operator members on how to keep up to date on the latest flight information as they battle to bring home more than 200 customers still stuck overseas.
It follows the Foreign Office’s announcement of a government partnership with airlines to repatriate “tens of thousands” of tourists stranded overseas amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Video Interview: ‘Many travel businesses are hanging by a thread’
Travel Weekly’s Lee Hayhurst speaks to Chris Photi, Will Waggott and Jeannette Linfoot about the fight for survival many firms are facing.
Tui repatriation programme ends
The arrival of 265 Tui UK passengers at Birmingham airport from Cancun on Sunday marked the end of a repatriation programme which has brought 45,000 of the operator’s holidaymakers home.
As well as returning Tui customers, hundreds more holidaymakers, unable to get home with the airlines they had travelled with, were repatriated by the company from destinations including Goa, Jamaica, Turkey, Spain and Marrakech.
Now Tui is supporting the repatriation programme announced by the government on Monday with aircraft and crew deployed to bring Brits back from a range of destinations, including a rescue flight from Tunis departing on Tuesday.
Andrew Flintham, Tui UK & Ireland managing director, said: “I don’t think anyone could have imagined just a few months ago that we would be where we are today. We have dealt with the largest repatriation operation our business has ever seen, bringing 45,000 of our own customers, and hundreds of other holidaymakers, back from overseas, and now our operation, and the entire, travel industry is temporarily ‘on pause’.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who played their part in getting our customers home as safely and as quickly as possible. And to our customers, for their patience and understanding.”
Tour operators are extending the suspension of operations around the world, as the coronavirus crisis deepens.
Earlier this month, many announced holiday departures would be suspended until April or May but now they are telling clients and agents the suspensions will be longer.
Travel Counsellors is to furlough “a number” of its head office staff following the announcement of the government’s coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Earlier this month the Manchester-based business started to consult 320 head office staff in Manchester about a range of options including redundancies. Other options included extended unpaid leave, reduced working hours, job-share opportunities.
Sandals Resorts has donated £30,000 to buy ventilators for hospitals in Jamaica and is allowing one of its hotels to be used as an isolation centre.
The Caribbean resort specialist’s charitable arm, Sandals Foundation, donated the cash to the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica for the ventilators which will be distributed to hospitals throughout the country.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) forecasts that airlines could “burn through” $61 billion of their cash reserves in the second quarter of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Its analysis estimates that airlines are on track to make losses of $39 billion in the second quarter – while they are faced with refunding sold but unused tickets as a result of massive cancellations. The second quarter liability for these is a “colossal” $35 billion.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) claims the UK government is falling behind other major economies in supporting its aviation industry.
The body, which represents more than 50 UK airports, is reiterating its urgent call for government support for the sector.
SPAA: airports will take longer to recover if not supported now
Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, warns that airports will take much longer to recover if the government does not support the aviation sector immediately.
“All Highlands and Island airports are currently closed, Edinburgh airport has announced that is has ‘close to zero’ passengers, Glasgow’s footfall fell by more than 80% in a month and Aberdeen has implemented temporary operating conditions,” she said.
“Airports don’t just service business travellers and holiday makers. Vital services which keep the UK running pass through airports daily – items such as crucial NHS supplies and mail.
“Switching these airlines and airports back ‘on’ after any period of mothballing will take significantly longer than it took to close them down.”
Carnival Corporation is bolstering its finances by more than $6 billion as the world’s largest cruise company battles the impact of coronavirus.
The owner of brands such as P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, is making a share offering to raise $3 billion and issuing $1.75 billion in senior convertible notes.
The company has also commenced an underwritten public offering of $1.25 billion of shares of common stock.
Underwriters are also being given an option to purchase up to $187.5 million of additional shares.
The Business Travel Association (BTA) is urging the government to extend the business rates holiday to travel management companies.
The association says the measures brought in to help retail outlets amid the coronavirus pandemic will exclude most TMCs because they do not operate high street stores which are eligible for help.
If Only closes after-sales and ticketing phone lines temporarily
Operator If Only is closing the phone lines of its after-sales and ticketing departments until April 2.
A message to agents said: “Our focus is on repatriating the remaining customers overseas, in addition to the high volume of amendments for those bookings with travel dates in the next month.
“We would ask agents to only get in touch in this time with after-sales or ticketing in connection with any booking travelling within the next 48 hours, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with ‘URGENT’ and booking reference in the subject line.”
The boss of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has called on the government to provide more support for the cruise industry.
With cruise operations suspended until May 23 during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK-based cruise line has been forced to dock its four ships.
The boss of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has called on the government to provide more support for the cruise industry.
With cruise operations suspended until May 23 during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK-based cruise line has been forced to dock its four ships.
The owner of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports is cutting operations following a widespread grounding of flights.
The two Scottish airports will continue to support essential services, including lifeline links to remote communities in the Highlands and Islands, NHS and air ambulance services, and helicopters for the oil and gas industry.
Eastern Airways is altering timings of a temporary schedule on the Humberside airport-Aberdeen route.
The regional carrier cut frequency from three flights a day to a daily weekday service last week due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
APT Travel Group is extending the suspension of its guided tours and cruises, from April 24 to May 31.
It told agents that affected clients can have a ‘Future Holiday Credit’, and urged them to encourage customers to take this credit option.
Lufthansa is to introduce short-time working for cabin and ground staff at its Frankfurt and Munich hubs due to the coronavirus crisis.
However, an agreement with German pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit has not yet been reached.
The extent of reduced working hours is determined for employees depending on the loss of work and can be up to 100%, the airline said.
Virgin Atlantic is working with supermarkets and healthcare providers to arrange temporary and voluntary jobs for its furloughed staff.
On Monday, Virgin Atlantic asked 4,000 of its staff if they can volunteer at the new NHS Nightingale hospital at ExCeL in London. Now the airline is widening its scope and working with other employers “to highlight temporary and voluntary opportunities to staff, while supporting other organisations during this time of crisis”.
Pilots are seeking government assurances over their safety when operating government rescue flights during the coronavirus crisis.
The British Airline Pilots Association is anxious that no clarity has been given as to the financial support promised or the health and safety of the workers involved in the repatriation efforts.
All British Airways’ Gatwick flights are being suspended in the latest contraction of air services triggered by the coronavirus crisis.
The airline is to contact customers to discuss their options. A limited BA schedule is continuing at Heathrow.
Scottish agents want ministers to back emergency support to keep Loganair flying through the coronavirus pandemic.
Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association president Joanne Dooey said: “The importance of Loganair and its contribution to the Scottish and UK economy cannot be underestimated. Loganair operates lifeline services for the people of Scotland, especially those in the remotest parts of the country.”
The parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises will not run any sailings until at least May 10.
Departures had previously been suspended until April 12.
Viking, the first line to temporarily suspend operations of its river and ocean cruises due to coronavirus, has extended its suspension of operations from April 30 until June 30.
Royal Caribbean Group is extending a ‘cruise with confidence’ cancellation policy until September 1 while sailings are disrupted.
The updated policy enhances planning flexibility by allowing cancellations up to 48 hours prior to sailing for any reason.
More lives could be at risk on board coronavirus-hit cruise ship Zaandam as it seeks a safe port to disembark passengers.
The stark warning came from the boss of operator Holland America Line in what the company described as a “humanitarian crisis”.
American Airlines will apply for $12 billion in US government aid amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Staff were told in an email this “would allow us to fly through even the worst of potential future scenarios”. This would mean “no involuntary furloughs or cuts in pay rates or benefits for the next six months”.
Four airport ground operations firms have warned they are close to collapse, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Swissport, WFS, Dnata and Menzies may not be able to continue operating for more than a few weeks, with some 25,000 jobs under threat.
Monday March 30
The Foreign Office has announced a government partnership with airlines to repatriate “tens of thousands” of tourists stranded overseas amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that he and transport secretary Grant Shapps have negotiated a deal with Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Jet2 and Titan Airways. British Airways will also work with the government and other airlines are expected to join.
Travel agents are calling for greater clarity from operators about refunds – and from the government about financial support amid the coronavirus crisis.
A government decision on a suspension of consumer refund rules of the Package Travel Regulations is expected this week.
British Airways’ aircraft and crews have landed in the Peruvian capital Lima to fly hundreds of stranded Britons back home
Operator extends new flexible payment policy to travel agents, following updated guidance from Abta.
Abta has written to the government again seeking urgent action on changes to the Package Travel Regulations.
The association has accused ministers of “dragging their feet” over the issue of customer refunds, putting travel businesses “on the brink” of collapse.
Homeworking firm believes now is a “golden opportunity” to attract at least 30 agents to join the homeworking business.
Ryanair extends reduced flight schedule
Ryanair is to extend its limited flight schedule for a further week.
The vast majority of flights have been grounded since last Tuesday with only a very small number of flights operating, mostly between the UK and Ireland.
Today, the budget carrier said it would extend these flight operations until April 9.
British Airways has secured a $1.38 billion loan facility to help it deal with the financial impact of the coronavirus.
IAG is also exploring several “operational and treasury initiatives” to improve cash flow and liquidity.
MSC Cruises is to halt cruises by another month to the end of May.
The company previously announced the temporary halting of all its ships globally through to April 30.
Ministers are being urged to stop delaying details of any support it plans to offer the aviation sector through the coronavirus crisis.
Pilots warn that airlines need the information urgently as they are taking drastic action as the effect of global travel restrictions are felt.
P&O Cruises and Cunard are extending a pause in operations for all sailings by a month until May 15.
The delivery of P&O Cruises’ new 5,200-passenger ship Iona, originally due to enter service in May, has also been delayed due to a “temporary slowdown” of work at the German shipyard where it is nearing completion.
Sister Carnival Corporation brands Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America and Seabourn have also extended the suspension of sailings until mid-May.
EasyJet today confirmed that its entire fleet of aircraft has been fully grounded due to “unprecedented travel restrictions” triggered by the coronavirus crisis.
And the UK budget carrier warned: “At this stage there can be no certainty of the date for re-starting commercial flights” due to lockdowns across many European countries.
Holland America Line has won permission for coronavirus-hit cruise ship Zaandam to pass through the Panama Canal.
Confirmation came in a video message via Twitter from the line’s president Orlando Ashford to passengers and crew.
But uncertainty surrounds where Zaandam and sister ship Rotterdam will be allowed to dock in the US
Three travel industry veterans have joined forces to create a free online web resource to advise travel companies how to “survive today, rebound later”.
Reboundconsulting.co.uk is a collaboration between Holiday Taxis co-founder and former On Holiday Group chief operating officer, Steve Endacott, former Thomas Cook head of tour operating and Tui chief financial officer, Will Waggott, and Seamus Conlon, former managing director of Airtours Holidays and TV Travel Shop and non-executive director of Cruise.co.uk.
Virgin Atlantic and easyJet have asked thousands of staff to help at the new NHS Nightingale Hospitals.
EasyJet has written to all of its 9,000 UK-based staff, which includes 4,000 cabin crew who are trained in CPR.
The boss of Loganair plans to request government support to help the UK’s largest regional airline maintain flights through the coronavirus pandemic.
The Scottish carrier has already been forced to ground around half its fleet of 44 aircraft.
Sunday March 29
The aviation sector’s calls for state aid to mitigate the unprecedented impact of coronavirus on the industry is backed by 38 MPs, who have written to the chancellor.
The letter states airlines’ “pressing challenge to survive” while aviation industry bosses warned the sector is “entering the danger zone”.
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) expects international tourist arrivals could drop by 20% to 30% year-on-year in 2020, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
This slump in travel could translate into a decline in international tourism receipts of between $300-450 billion – almost one third of the $1.5 trillion generated in 2019.
Airports will collapse within weeks without emergency funding for the firms that supply baggage handlers and refuel planes, warn ground-handling firms.
A report in the Mail on Sunday said ground-handling firms told transport minister Kelly Tolhurst that they are “perilously close to collapse” and likely to run out of cash within six weeks.
A bid is being made to nationalise failed regional carrier Flybe as the government increasingly intervenes in the coronavirus economy.
The accountancy firm acting as administrator of the airline has reportedly asked ministers to consider buying what was Europe’s biggest regional airline out of administration, according to the Sunday Telegraph, quoting industry sources.
Holland America Line is working with officials to allow coronavirus-hit cruise ship Zaandam to pass through the Panama Canal.
The line was responding to reports that the ship and sister vessel Rotterdam, currently stuck off the coast of Panama, had gained permission for the transit.
Saturday March 28
The government is to change insolvency regulation to give firms more flexibility to handle the coronavirus crisis.
Legislation will be introduced soon to help businesses “weather the storm”, said business secretary Alok Sharma at the government’s daily briefling.
He said: “We will improve insolvency rules to help UK companies which need to undergo restructuring packages to keep trading. These measures will give companies extra time and space.”
The changes will be retrospective, and apply from March 1. Exact details were not revealed.
The government has said it will continue to work with airlines to get more Brits home from abroad in the coming days.
In the government’s daily briefing, business secretary Alok Sharma said: “We will continue to work with airlines to get people home through commercial means but also through repatriation charter flights.
“The Foreign Office is working hard to get more flights confirmed in the coming days.”
Sharma added: “We have laid on repatriation flights and we will continue to work round the clock to make sure we get our people back. ”
Faremine’s head of sales Chris Oakes has left the business as a result of the challenges created by coronavirus.
He joined the online booking system company in October 2017 following a short period of consultancy with the trade-only brand.
Speaking to Travel Weekly, Oakes said his departure was amicable.
Luxury hotel brand One&Only has postponed the opening of three new properties and has closed several other resorts due to the coronavirus crisis.
Malaysian property One&Only Desaru Coast had been due to open this week but this has been pushed back June 1.
One&Only Portonovi in Montenegro, which had been set to open its doors in July, has a new open date of October 1 and One&Only Mandarina in Mexico will open on November 1, four months later than planned.
Luxury tour operator ITC has created ‘The Ultimate Guide to your Holiday From Home’ – a digital resource to help the trade keep travel front of mind with their customers during the lockdown period.
The magazine features recipes, travel related book, TV film suggestions and blog posts. It also includes kid’s activities, with the operator keen to help agents who are working remotely and have their children to look after.
Cruise operator Royal Caribbean has urged its trade partners to prepare for a bounce back once COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.
In a video message to travel agents Ben Bouldin, EMEA vice president of the cruise line, indicated business could come back as soon as the third and fourth quarters of this year.
Pilots union Balpa has called for additional support for employees in furlough similar to measures announced for the self-employed.
The union gave a “cautious” welcome the UK Government’s clarification on support for employees who are furloughed with no work.
But it said there should also be support for people forced onto reduced hours and pay that would mirror the protections for the self-employed.
The world’s biggest cruise operator Carnival Corporation is looking to raise $7 billion as its finances take a hit from the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Quoting anonymous sources about talks to shore up the operator’s finances, Bloomberg said the line is working with JP Morgan on plans to improve liquidity.
United Airlines bosses have told workers none will be furloughed or face pay cuts before September 30.
In a joint statement to its 100,000 staff chief executive Oscar Munoz and president J. Scott Kirby said the impact of COVID-19 is “far worse” than after 9/11.
The US travel sector has welcomed government support for the industry after it warned six million jobs are expected to be lost in the next five weeks.
In a statement US Travel Association President and chief executive Roger Dow said the progress through Congress of the $454 billion emergency CARES Act was a “great first step”.
Four elderly passengers onboard Holland America Line’s Zaandam have died, the line has confirmed.
Zaandam is currently off the coast of Panama, where it met with sister ship Rotterdam on Thursday to transfer medical supplies and staff.
The line confirmed in a statement on Friday that 53 guests and 85 crew have reported flu-like symptoms. Of these, a number have been tested with two confirmed cases of Covid-19.
It has not been confirmed whether the four passengers who have died reported symptoms consistent with coronavirus.
Friday March 27
Virgin Atlantic will soon ask the government for commercial loans and guarantees worth hundreds of millions of pounds, according to the Financial Times.
The newspaper said the airline would be among the first in the UK to do so, adding that other carriers, including easyJet, Loganair and Eastern Airways are considering following Virgin’s lead.
Althams Travel is redeploying vehicles that would normally be used for its airport transfer service to deliver prescriptions to coronavirus patients’ homes.
The agency is helping the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, by driving NHS staff to patients’ homes with prescriptions.
The FCO has chartered three British Airways flights to help repatriate stranded tourists, with the first flight due to depart from Lima on Sunday.
A statement said the FCO would also charter domestic flights from Cusco and Arequipa to Lima so that UK nationals can transfer to the London-bound flights.
The German government has approved a bridging loan for Tui Group worth €1.8 billion.
Funds from state-owned bank KfW will be used to bolster the travel giant’s liquidity position.
Kuoni boss Derek Jones says a refund scheme in Denmark could be a possible solution to the industry’s dilemma over refunds, credit notes and package travel regulations.
“Denmark is a great example where they have agreed they will effectively fund the refunds for now and the tour operators can repay them back later,” he told Travel Weekly.
Agents and operators are demanding airlines issue them with cash refunds so they can reimburse customers for cancelled package holidays.
Multiple firms acting as principal in package bookings have reported airlines offering credit notes instead of cash, meaning Atol holders can only offer partial refunds to customers.
Gatwick airport will close its north terminal for at least a month from April 1.
Flights will take off and depart from the south terminal between 10-2pm. Only emergency landings and diversions will be able to use the runway outside these hours.
The airport said the situation would be kept under “regular review”.
Homeworking companies have broadly welcomed government measures to support self-employed agents affected by coronavirus, but warned many will still lose out.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced new measures on Thursday that will see self-employed people eligible to apply for a taxable grant worth 80% of average profits, capped at £2,500 per month.
A UK government decision on whether to suspend the consumer refund rules of the Package Travel Regulations is not expected until next week.
The decision by the Department for Business (BEIS) remains in the balance following a meeting of Abta, the CAA and officials of BEIS and the Department for Transport (DfT) on Thursday.
Shearings has shifted its balance due date to just three weeks before departure for early summer holidays.
The new guidance from the operator covers holidays departing between May 1 and July 31.
Dnata Travel Group is to furlough a third of its UK staff from the beginning of April.
The company said it had taken up the government’s Job Retention Scheme, which offers to pay 80% of staff wages, to safeguard jobs for the future.
The Gold Medal and Travel2 parent said staff who are needed to continue key operational functions to support agents and customers are exempt, but would be taking a temporary pay cut of between 20% and 30%.
NHS staff and emergency service workers are being offered free holiday amendments by Jet2 and Jet2holidays.
Holiday change fees have been waived for any departures over the next three months.
The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) has hit out at the UK government for not repatriating Britons who are still stranded abroad.
The group described the Foreign Office advice to stranded holidaymakers urging them to come home, as “futile”, pointing out that there are now very few flights, if any, still operating.
The group is demanding the UK government organise rescue flights for all Britons abroad.
Abta is to offer current members six months’ free membership from July 1 and has deferred payment of the discounted fees until 2021.
The update to the association’s policy covers the first six months of its subscriptions year, with payment for the second second six months due in two instalments in 2021.
Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has lowered Heathrow’s credit rating amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding the spread of coronavirus.
The decision reflects an updated view on airports and forecast for a global recession that will result in a slower recovery in passenger traffic.
Abta has given assurances that the credit notes agents and operators are offering customers for cancelled holidays are financially protected.
Speaking in a video interview with Travel Weekly editor in chief Lucy Huxley yesterday, association chief executive Mark Tanzer said it was vital this message was sent out to protect companies.
Abta has demanded more help from government and the financial sector to see it through the Covid-19 crisis.
Speaking to Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley in an exclusive webcast yesterday, the association’s chief executive Mark Tanzer called on banks, insurance firms and credit card companies to support the sector. He is pleased with the government’s package of support but said more was needed.
Flight Centre Travel Group is to make third of its global workforce temporarily or permanently redundant as it battles the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The high street and corporate travel agent employs 20,000 people. In total 6,000 sales and support staff will be stood down, 3,800 of which will be in Australia.
Lockie Kerr, Back-Roads Touring sales manager in the UK, has been made redundant after 4.5 years with the company.
“It’s a tough time for all brands,” he told Travel Weekly, adding that he has been overwhelmed by the messages of support from the trade.
British travellers in Canada are being “strongly recommended” to return home as travel options become limited amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The only Canadian airports operating international flights are Toronto Pearson, Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Calgary and Vancouver.
Southend airport is shutting for most of the week as airlines withdraw flights as passenger demand collapses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Opening hours are being amended from next week to 4.30pm to 9.30pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays as airlines suspend most or all of their services.
The British Airline Pilots Association has highlighted “huge unfairness” in the government’s Self-employment Income Support Scheme, announced last night by chancellor Rishi Sunak.
It means the self-employed can continue to work and earn at a reduced level, and still get significant grants, while employed workers cannot.
Pilots across the industry are being put on significantly reduced pay, but almost all are being kept on some kind of reduced income.
The risk to the UK economy of a collapse in air traffic resulting from the coronavirus crisis could amount to more than $32 billion, according to new calculations.
The UK could lose 135.5 million passengers, resulting in a $21.7 billion revenue loss, risking almost 402,000 jobs and about $32.7 billion in contribution to the economy, Iata estimates.
Thursday March 26
The chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced financial support for self-employed workers hit by a loss of income amid the coronavirus crisis.
Self-employed people will be able to apply for a taxable grant of up to £2,500 a month to help them cope with the loss of income, the chancellor announced this evening. It will cover 80% of their average monthly profits.
It is expected the scheme will cover three months initially and grants will be paid by June 1.
The Abta chief executive speaks to Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley about negotiations with the government on refund rules and the future of the travel industry
Jet2holidays has already started preparations for a ‘Back with a Bang’ sales campaign in anticipation of a surge in demand when the coronavirus pandemic comes to an end.
The trade has predicted a “massive pent up demand” once the crisis is over and it is safe for consumers to travel.
EasyJet has warned it is seeing increased demand for its customer call centres as offices close and staff numbers reduce amid the coronavirus crisis.
The airline has temporarily closed its two call centres in Delhi and Mumbai due to local restrictions on movement.
Abta hopes to hear a decision by the government about changes to refund rules for Atol bookings “in the near future”.
The trade body has been lobbying for a suspension of the legal requirement to refund consumers within 14 days of cancellation as it threatens many businesses with insolvency amid the coronavirus crisis.
Scottish regional carrier expects to ground around half of its 44 aircraft fleet in the coming weeks and is likely to furlough most of its staff under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
A skeleton schedule of essential air services will operate within Scotland, to and from the Isle of Man and on two routes supporting critical workers in the offshore industry at Aberdeen.
Almost 230 British passengers are among those stuck on a cruise ship off the coast of Panama after being barred from ports in South America.
More people on board have reported with flu-like symptoms and there is growing frustration among passengers about when and where they will be allowed to get off and whether repatriation flights back to the UK will be available.
A British passenger on the Holland America Line ship Zaandam told Travel Weekly that 56 passengers and 89 crew members are now ill.
A virtual call centre has been created by Tailor Made Travel for use by trade partners and the wider industry affected by coronavirus.
The initiative follows the Welsh agency closing its 20 branches following the government’s lockdown instruction earlier this week.
The company is extending the use of the call centre to help the NHS.
First Peru flight carrying Britons arrives in UK
The first government-chartered rescue flight for Britons in Peru has landed in the UK.
Qantas has agreed more than A$1 billion of additional debt funding as it battles to secure its future through the coronavirus pandemic.
The ten-year loan has been secured against seven of the group’s fleet of 11 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which were bought with cash in recent years.
Only 17% of UK consumers expect holiday travel to return to normal by July, a new study reveals.
The largest proportion (31%) do not anticipate “normalisation” until 2021 or beyond, said consumer insight consultancy BVA BDRC.
Hays Travel has furloughed most of its staff during the coronavirus crisis, thanks to the government support scheme announced last week.
A statement from the agency chain today said: “Our first concern is for the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers, and we have taken all measures available to protect our industry and jobs.
“The majority of our staff other than key workers are now furloughed with government support and we are feeling more confident about safeguarding these jobs.”
World leaders are being urged to introduce “crucial measures” to save the travel and tourism sector from collapse.
The plea from the World Travel & Tourism Council came ahead of a special video conference convened today by the G20 group of 20 major economies to discuss the pandemic.
Washington is set to provide emergency financial support worth almost $60 billion to US carriers struggling in the face of the catastrophic coronavirus crisis.
The bailout is part of a $2 trillion Senate rescue package and comes as UK airlines continue to lobby ministers for state aid.
London City airport last night suspended operations until at least the end of April.
The Docklands airport handled more than five million passengers last year.
The temporary shutdown follows the suspension of services from Carlisle and Teesside airports on Tuesday.
Virgin Voyages has confirmed redundancies have been made within its shore-side team in the US.
The new cruise line was forced to postpone its maiden programme earlier this month as travel restrictions were put in place. Ship Scarlet Lady will now sail its first revenue sailing in July.
Foreign ministers from the world’s seven most powerful countries have pledged to help get travellers home despite routes closing across the world during the escalating coronavirus crisis.
British foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “As our citizens try to return home, we need to keep commercial options available. And where commercial flights are not running, ensure that special flights, where possible, can take people home.”
Hostelworld expects a financial hit of up to €5 million due to “unprecedented challenges” presented by the coronavirus outbreak.
The figure for the first quarter of the year is worse than the €3 million to €4 million range estimated by the global OTA at the time of the group’s preliminary results on March 4.
Wednesday March 25
UNWTO launches ‘Healing Solutions’ challenge
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has launched a competition to find ideas to help communities recover from the coronavirus crisis.
The Healing Solutions challenge is a global call for entrepreneurs and innovators to submit ideas that can help the tourism sector “mitigate the impact of the pandemic and kickstart recovery efforts”.
Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO secretary-general, said: “In particular, we want to hear ideas that will help communities recover from this crisis, economically and socially, as well as ideas that can contribute to the public health response.”
Click here for details.
Thailand Travel Mart cancelled
The Thai tourist board has cancelled its annual travel trade show.
Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2020 was due to take place in Phuket on June 1-3 but has now been postponed to a future date yet to be announced.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said the decision was made after “extensive and careful consideration of the current situation”.
“We appreciate all participants for showing interest and support of this major travel trade event and apologise for any inconvenience that this postponement may cause,” TAT said in a statement. “We stand united with you to address and overcome the current challenges to our tourism industry and look forward to collaborating with you for our mutual interest.”
High-street travel agency chain Premier Travel has furloughed the majority of its shop staff while retaining a core team working from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
The agency, which has 25 high-street branches across East Anglia, was forced to shut its shops from March 24 after the government told all non-essential retailers to close as part of a ‘stay-at-home’ lockdown.
Virgin Atlantic operated its first cargo charter this week carrying medical supplies.
The VS698 flew from Heathrow to New York JFK filled with 12,490 kilograms of medicines and equipment.
Virgin said with so many flights cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, there had been a dramatic decrease in cargo space available on commercial routes.
New research by Holiday Extras shows Britons are booking holidays for later in the year in the hope that the coronavirus crisis has passed.
The ancillaries supplier quizzed 1,000 in a survey and found that 25% have already booked a new flight or holiday, for travel after the coronavirus pandemic.
xVistajet offers to help repatriation efforts
Business jet operator Vistajet is offering free empty-leg flights to governments to help repatriate people stranded by the coronavirus travel bans.
The company is also in talks with medical organisations, health experts and regulators to about transporting key medical supplies and experts. Click here for more.
Kuoni has set up a new central call centre, staffed by a 40-strong team working from home amid the coronavirus lockdown.
The call centre is operated by staff who would normally be working in shops, backed up with a head office support team – also working from home.
Ryanair has released details of a “limited schedule” for the coming days as it aims to “keep skies open” amid the coronavirus travel bans.
From March 27 to April 2, Ryanair will operate daily or weekly flights between the UK and Ireland (Dublin to/from Stansted, Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester, and Cork-Stansted), plus Stansted to Eindhoven, Berlin, Berlin and Budapest.
South African Airways changes re-booking policy
South African Airways has a new commercial re-booking policy on all routes, which allows for changes for a period up until March 2022, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Its has also temporarily closed telephone lines for customers in the UK and is instead handling all customer and trade enquiries via email. Click here for details.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) international flights are being suspended from Thursday.
Aircraft will be grounded until April 14 following all domestic flights ceasing on March 17.
The airline said in a statement: “After careful consideration, we concluded that PAL could no longer sustain even a limited number of international flights.”
Talks are ongoing between airlines and ministers to look at how best to support the aviation industry though the current coronavirus crisis, according to the British Airline Pilots Association.
Widely reported claims that the government is not going to support the industry are “misleading”, as discussions about unique measures for individual airlines are ongoing.
With almost 40 years of experience in the travel business, Clive Jacobs highlights a way through the Covid-19 crisis for businesses.
The owner of Travel Weekly and chairman of Jacobs Media Group says: “The most important thing is to look after the people you work with and who work for you. Everything else is secondary. Before businesses consider laying people off, which larger businesses can be quick to do, remember you will need people to work with you when you come out the other side.”
The coronavirus pandemic is putting up to 75 million global travel and tourism jobs at “immediate risk” at a cost to the world economy of $2.1 trillion.
The latest projection by the World Travel & Tourism Council represents a 50% increase in jobs at risk in less than two weeks. An “astounding” one million jobs are being lost every day in the sector, due to the sweeping effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
The owner of an independent travel agency has shut the business before incurring losses due to the coronavirus crisis.
Swansea-based Burgess World Travel was formed in 1991 and had eight staff.
Owner Jonathan Evans said coronavirus was the last straw following a series of problems, including Brexit uncertainty, a “devastating flood” last November and a decline in footfall due to disruptive local roadworks.
A government decision on suspending refund rules for Atol bookings is expected by the end of this week following a further meeting between Abta, the CAA and Departments of Transport (DfT) and Business (BEIS).
Abta is seeking a suspension of the legal requirement to refund consumers in full within 14 days of cancellation as it threatens many businesses with insolvency following the cancellation of millions of bookings.
The association wants temporary changes to the Package Travel Regulations’ (PTRs) which stipulate the refund rules, pointing out these “were not designed to cope with an industry-wide collapse”.
Travel agencies of all sizes are taking up the government’s offer to pay 80% of wages of staff left out of work amid to the coronavirus crisis.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak told businesses the state will cover up to £2,500 a month of salaries for firms to furlough staff through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Abta, Advantage Travel Partnership and Global Travel Group have pledged to reinstate their payments systems as soon as possible after they were suspended within hours of each other last week.
Decisions to turn off Abta’s Single Payment System (SPS) and Advantage’s Central Advantage Payment System (CAPS) were announced on Friday after the businesses grew concerned about the number of refunds being processed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Refund vouchers being issued to customers who have lost their holidays must offer as concrete customer protection as fully bonded Atol holidays.
Speaking in a special Travel Weekly webcast on the developing coronavirus crisis, leading travel agent Miles Morgan said agents cannot recommend anything less to their clients.
Some operators have delayed balance due dates to give agents more chance to retain bookings by allowing customers extra time to confirm their travel plans.
Agents had piled pressure on operators to delay balance payments to “the absolute minimum”. Balances are typically due at least 10 weeks ahead of travel.
Supplies are to be delivered at sea to a cruise ship unable to dock for more than a week due to port closures.
Holland American Line vessel Zaandam will receive coronavirus test kits after 13 passengers and 29 crew reported as having influenza-like symptoms on Sunday.
Trailfinders has assured customers that it has a “war chest of cash” to counter the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the travel sector.
The privately-owned Travel Trust Association member shut its 37 travel centres on Monday following the government’s lockdown instructions.
Airlines are being urged to adhere to Iata regulations and offer cash refunds to corporate travellers.
The call came today from the Business Travel Association which accused many “major” foreign carriers of refusing to issue refunds even where flights have been cancelled as a result of government advice or action in contravention of Iata rules.
Wizz Air warned of “significant disruption” as its network of more than 50 routes from Luton airport were abruptly cancelled from today (Wednesday).
The action by the low cost carrier has been taken because of travel restrictions imposed across Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Services will be shut down until May 1 with the exception of a limited number of repatriation flights.
A suspension of sailings by all brands under the Royal Caribbean Cruises umbrella has been extended until the middle of May.
The world’s second largest cruise company originally paused all global operations on March 14 until April 11.
That date was last night changed to an expected return to service on May 12.
Intrepid has become the latest travel company to make a number of staff redundant at its London office as a result of the coronavirus and its impact on business.
Other employees have also taken paid or unpaid leave. The company did not confirm the numbers of staff affected by the cost-saving measures.
The number of US travel-related jobs at risk by May due to the worsening impact of the coronavirus crisis could hit almost six million, according to new projections.
The figures indicate that the economic damage from the public health crisis is accelerating.
Tuesday March 24
In the first in a series of remote video discussions, Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley is joined by Celebrity Cruises MD Jo Rzymowska, Jet2holidays head of trade sales Alan Cross and Miles Morgan Travel MD Miles Morgan.
Etihad to suspend all flights today
Etihad Airways will suspend all departures from Abu Dhabi International Airport immediately for an initial 14 days.
Aircraft currently outside the United Arab Emirates will continue to operate to Abu Dhabi as planned until tomorrow, when the suspension had been due to start.
The change comes after UAE authorities brought forward their directive to suspend all inbound, outbound, and transit passenger flights in the UAE to today.
ExCeL London to become temporary hospital
The NHS is planning to treat coronavirus patients in a “makeshift field hospital” in the ExCeL Centre in east London, reports the BBC.
The exhibition space, which is the venue for travel trade event WTM London each November, will hold up to 4,000 patients in a temporary base staffed by NHS medics with the help of the military. Click here for the BBC article.
Titan Travel clients are set to make aviation history as they travel home on the first temporary non-stop flight from Darwin in Australia to the UK.
Transit restrictions in Singapore amid the coronvirus outbreak mean that airline Qantas will temporarily operate its A380 Sydney-London service via Darwin.
Thai Airways to suspend services
Thai Airways is to suspend most European services from April 1.
Services to London, Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Oslo, Moscow and Stockholm will be affected.
Passengers issued with tickets before March 25 travelling European, Australian and New Zealand routes between April 1-May 31, can claim a travel voucher valid for one year.
The same applies to passengers issued with tickets before March 25 on Asian routes travelling between March 25-May 31.
The Airport Operators Association has accused the government of a U-turn over support for the aviation sector during the coronavirus crisis.
A letter from the chancellor to the aviation sector today says the government is prepared to “enter negotiations with individual companies seeking bespoke support as a last resort, having exhausted other options”.
Qatar Airways is continuing to operate four times a day to Heathrow but the frequency will drop to twice a day from April 1.
Only Qatari nationals are allowed to enter the country but passengers with onward connections through Hamad International Airport will be accepted for travel.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has estimated that revenue for the aviation sector will plummet by $252bn this year compared to 2019.
It said “owing to the severity of travel restrictions and the expected global recession” revenues will drop 44% in 2020 based on “severe travel restrictions that last for up to three months, followed by a gradual economic recovery later this year”.
Tokyo Olympics postponed
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed until next summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The event had been due to begin in Japan on July 24. Click here to see the joint statement from the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.
Coronavirus survived in cabins on Diamond Princess for up to 17 days after passengers disembarked in Japan last month.
A report by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) highlights how long the virus remained on surfaces in the cabins – after the passengers left but before disinfection procedures.
Vivid Travel is to give cash refunds of final balances to all customers whose holidays it is postponing.
All refunds will be paid by the end of this month.
Ryanair flights are expected to be out of service until June due to the coronavirus crisis, chief executive Michael O’Leary revealed today.
Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline group, expects to ground most of its planes from today (Tuesday).
Staff training and motivational sessions have been introduced for homeworkers at Not Just Travel to support them through the coronavirus crisis.
The 40-minute daily sessions are part of an initiative by the Hays Travel Independence Group member to build skills and further educate its 450 home-based travel consultants during the travel lockdown period.
If Only has closed its office today to focus on repatriating customers and setting staff at home, following the announcement of strict curbs to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
It will only be taking urgent calls today (March 24), relating to passengers overseas. From tomorrow, all calls will be redirected to the reservations team working remotely.
Emergency flights must be allowed to go ahead for up to one million Britons estimated to be stranded overseas as countries impose travel bans over the coronavirus pandemic.
The call was made by the boss of air charter firm Air Partner which worked with the Foreign Office to repatriate passengers from coronavirus cruise ship Diamond Princess from Japan last month.
Kuoni parent company Der Touristik UK is retaining its staff during the coronavirus crisis – including those who left last week – thanks to the government’s furloughed worker scheme.
Derek Jones, chief executive, has confirmed that “all valued staff who left the business last week would immediately be brought back into the business and then furloughed”.
The grounding of the entire Wizz Air fleet due to the coronavirus epidemic is a distinct possibility, the budget airline warned.
Around 85% of the Hungarian low cost carrier’s 121 aircraft have been taken out of service due to unprecedented travel restrictions and slump in demand.
Balkan Holidays has changed its cancellation terms for direct customers – but flight-only and travel agent bookings are exempt.
It said on its website: “If you are travelling in June, you could cancel your booking up to 4 weeks before travel, without paying normal cancellation fees. With regret, we are not able to offer this benefit for flight only or travel agent bookings.”
Etihad Airways suspended transit travel through Abu Dhabi airport last night (Monday).
The move came ahead of the UAE carrier’s plan to temporarily stop all flights for an initial period of 14 days from midnight on Wednesday local time.
Norwegian Air has secured the first stage of rescue financing as part of a state aid lifeline.
Two Nordic banks have agreed to provide a guarantee for the required 10% for the first tranche of Nok 300 million (about £23 milllion).
EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou wants the airline’s fleet to be trimmed by a quarter due to widespread travel curbs imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The UK budget carrier’s largest shareholder called for the fleet to be reduced to 250 from 344 aircraft as airlines worldwide cut costs in the face of the global crisis, according to the Financial Times.
The money of thousands of holidaymakers must not be used as a “backdoor bailout” of the travel industry, according to consumer champion Which?.
Reports of some package providers refusing refunds running into thousands of pounds in expectation of changes to the law are “unacceptable”, it said.
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