Cunard to extend pause in operations amid ongoing travel restrictions

Cunard, the British luxury cruise line, and part of Carnival Corporation, has said that it has extended its pause in operations due to the ongoing travel constraints across the world.

According to the cruise line, voyages departing on board Queen Mary 2 up to and including May 28, 2021, and on-board Queen Elizabeth up to and including June 4, 2021, have been cancelled. Departures on Queen Victoria remain unaffected and are scheduled to resume May 17, 2021.

Customers who have had their voyage cancelled will receive a 125 percent Future Cruise Credit, providing an additional 25 percent on any amount paid, to redeem against a future voyage. The 125 percent Future Cruise Credit can be used on any new booking made by the end of December 2021 and on any voyage available at the time of booking. Voyages are currently available through to early 2023. Guests preferring a refund should complete the form on Cunard.com.

Cunard President Simon Palethorpe said: ‘Our extension to the pause in operations is the result of the ongoing restrictions on cruising in the UK and around the world, and recognizes the significant lead times to return to service once those restrictions are lifted.

‘We are extremely sorry for the disappointment we know this will cause. We know how much careful consideration goes into planning a holiday and apologize that our guests now have to wait a little longer to travel once again with Cunard.

‘Guests are able to use their enhanced 125% Future Cruise Credit to book for later in 2021 or for one of our newly announced 2022 voyages. The tremendous response already to our 2022 voyages, put on sale just a few weeks ago, clearly demonstrates our guests are eagerly anticipating travelling again with us. We’re equally looking forward to the time when we can welcome back our guests.’

London Stansted Airport unveils new Covid-19 testing facility

London Stansted Airport has said that it has launched a new Covid-19 testing facility, as part of a move by its parent company, Manchester Airports Group (MAG).

Accordingly, a full range of tests – RT-PCR, RT-LAMP, Rapid Antigen and Antibody – will be available to all passengers in a new facility inside the main terminal building. They will be delivered in partnership with airport services and travel medical provider, Collinson.

MAG, the UK’s largest airport group, also became the first operator to give its passengers the chance to book discounted pre-flight testing appointments on the high street at selected Boots UK stores.

Boots offers an in-store RT-PCR Covid-19 testing service, which returns results within 48 hours from more than 50 stores across the UK, specifically for customers who do not suspect they have Covid-19. MAG passengers will be able to access a five percent discount through the airport’s website. Airport testing prices through Collinson start at £40 for Antibody tests, £50 for Antigen tests, £79 for RT-LAMP tests and £99 for RT-PCR tests.

Steve Griffiths, Managing Director, London Stansted, said, ‘As England emerges from a ban on international travel, we know our passengers are keen to start flying again, but many of Stansted’s most popular destinations require a negative test before you arrive in the country.

This new facility will make the process of showing you’re infection-free when booking a holiday as easy and cost-effective as possible in the current circumstances. Our new booking portal makes it easy to select the right test for your destination, and at the location that is most convenient for you.

This also means Stansted is perfectly placed to support the introduction of a UK arrivals testing regime, which will enable travellers to reduce the length of time they need to self-isolate if they test negative.

Subject to the relevant tests securing government approval, this could free people from quarantine after just five days. This is the latest example of MAG leading the way as we look to work with Government and the rest of our industry to get Britain flying again.’

While some governments allow pre-departure tests in order to shorten or completely alleviate quarantine requirements in the destination country, others require them in order to gain entry. Passengers will also be able to book the tests they need to shorten their self-isolation period upon return under the UK Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme. The scheme, announced last week, will launch on December 15 and allow travellers arriving from higher risk countries to reduce their period of quarantine by taking a test five days after they arrive in the UK.

MAG’s testing services are the first to be offered by an airport group at multiple locations across the country. The service will cater for both outbound and inbound testing, and adapt as Government travel requirements change.

British Airways announces flight schedule for November

British Airways has said that it will operate 52 long haul routes alongside its short haul network this month as the airline continues to adapt to changing restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline will continue to operate to US gateways including New York JFK, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco, with Newark added to the schedule. Flights to the Caribbean continue to destinations including Barbados, Antigua and St Lucia, and flights will operate to destinations across Africa, the Middle East and Asia such as Dubai, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Flights to Santiago, and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, are also set to return.

Sean Doyle, CEO of British Airways, said: ‘We continue to connect Britain with a substantial number of destinations across the globe and customers tell us they are reassured by the safety measures we’ve put in place, including personal protection packs, screens, sanitiser stations, adapted meal services and customers and colleagues in masks.

‘The risk of contracting Covid-19 during a flight is incredibly low. IATA, the global aviation industry body, suggests that since the start of 2020 there have been as few as 44 cases of Covid-19 linked to flights. Over the same period some 1.2 billion passengers have travelled. This figure amounts to one case for every 27 million travellers.

‘We believe the best way to get people flying again is to introduce reliable and affordable testing before flying. When this happens and demand returns, we stand ready to reintroduce even more destinations to our network, and carry on connecting even more families, friends and businesses.’

British Airways will also continue to serve domestic destinations including Manchester, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Newquay. In continental Europe, cities like Paris, Munich, Geneva and Amsterdam, among others, will be connected to Heathrow by frequent, direct flights. There are also regular flights to beach destinations such as Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

The operation of any flight is subject to changes, international restrictions and government approval, British Airways said, adding that the airline has a range of measures to keep customers safe when they travel, both at the airport and on board.

easyJet holidays to provide further customer protection on holidays

As holidaymakers demand increased security and flexibility, easyJet holidays has launched its new Protection Promise, providing protection in the event of travel disruptions amid Covid-19 risks.

According to new research, more than 33 million Brits have had their holiday plans disrupted this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, while more than half (53%) of Brits are only willing to book a holiday abroad if they feel confident their money is protected. However, despite ongoing travel restrictions, a report from easyJet holidays into consumer travel trends has revealed that almost a quarter (24%) of Brits plan to still go on holiday abroad in the next three months, rising to 37% in the start of next year. Almost two in five (38%) are even willing to quarantine for two weeks on their return in order to get away, with just over one in five (21%) saying that not having a holiday or break away has affected their mood.

In response these consumer needs, easyJet holidays is launching its new Protection Promise, a guarantee of flexibility and protection for customers. The new, long-term customer policy is in addition to the short-term commitments the company has in place to support customers’ bookings impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has included a promise to cancel any holidays where there is a known quarantine or self-isolation requirement in the destination and any customer refunds have been processed in an average of 12 days.

Matt Callaghan, Customer Director at easyJet holidays, said, ‘Consumer confidence in booking a holiday abroad has taken a huge hit this year and travellers have different priorities so at easyJet holidays we know, given the restrictions continue to change, we must adapt to this new reality. That’s why we’re launching our new Protection Promise, setting a benchmark for customer flexibility in the industry and encouraging travellers to book their holidays with the reassurance that if things change they are protected. And this isn’t a short-term move, this is a fundamental change to what customers can expect whenever they book with easyJet holidays.’

The report from easyJet holidays also revealed that COVID-19 has made Brits reconsider their priorities, four in ten (40%) proactively look for destinations that have a low rate of infection, while three in ten (31%) said they now prefer self-catering or self-contained holidays.

easyJet holidays’ Protection Promise offers customers: a Refund Guarantee in the event of a change of travel plans, offering a full refund, including their deposit in credit, up to 28 days before departure and free of fees; a chance to pay for their holiday in instalments with no fees and only pay in full 28 days before they travel, Best Price Guarantee; Freedom to Change until 28 days before departure and ensure a return of deposit, if plans change, up to 28 days from departure.

Eurowings resume flights between Newcastle and Dusseldorf

Eurowings has resumed operations between Newcastle and Dusseldorf – the tenth airline to restart flights from the North East’s largest airport.

The airline had stopped flying between the two cities in April following the COVID-19 pandemic, but has restarted operating three flights every week and plans to increase to six flights per week from November. Eurowings will operate the route on its Airbus A320 aircraft which will provide more than 1,000 seats between Newcastle and Dusseldorf each week.

Nick Jones, Chief Executive of Newcastle Airport said: ‘We’re delighted to see Eurowings return to the Airport and look forward to welcoming passengers for their trips to Dusseldorf. The connection between the two cities has been established for many years and continues to be a very important connection for the region’s business and leisure passengers.

‘There is no doubt that this is a challenging time for the aviation industry however it is positive to see the tenth of our airline partners resuming operations from our Airport.’

Newcastle Airport had announced its Ten Point Plan of measures ahead of passengers returning in June. The plan ensures the terminal is safer for all and includes mandatory face mask wearing, and hand sanitiser stations.

Eurowings is the first German airline to launch a free middle seat that can be booked in advance of the flight. The new offer can be booked in all seat rows and on all Eurowings routes within Europe – subject to availability. The free middle seat is priced at EUR18 per flight. Currently, the new service can be booked via the Eurowings Service Center +49 180 6 320 320.

‘The positive feedback during the test phase showed us very clearly that our guests often want more comfort and distance on board. We therefore assume that the free middle seat will become a very important product for travel in the future,’ said Eurowing’s CEO Jens Bischof.

Cunard extends stoppage of operations, confirms itinerary changes for 2021 and 2022 World Voyage

British cruise line Cunard has said that will be extending its stoppage of operations from November 2020 until March 25, 2021 for its ship Queen Elizabeth; until April 18, 2021 for Queen Mary 2 and until May 16, 2021 for Queen Victoria, due to issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

Cunard president Simon Palethorpe said: ‘We are so sorry to all those guests who were due to sail on any of the cancelled voyages and for the disappointment this news will cause. After very careful consideration and reviewing the latest guidance, we simply do not feel it would be sensible to start sailing again with our current schedule so we have reviewed future itineraries.

‘Queen Elizabeth has returned to the UK and with ongoing uncertainty over the re-opening of many ports and countries, it is sadly not practical to continue her planned itineraries for 2021. Therefore, in addition to the pause in operations, all of Queen Elizabeth’s sailings due to depart between March 26, 2021 and December 13, 2021, in and around Australia, Japan and Alaska, will be cancelled.

‘These voyages will be replaced with a programme of shorter duration European holidays ranging from three to 14 nights, departing from Southampton. These will start at the end of March 2021, with a series of scenic voyages around the coast of Cornwall, the west coast of Ireland and the Scottish Isles. There will also be short breaks to Amsterdam which will include an overnight in the city, as well as voyages to northern and southern European destinations including Norway and the Iberian coast, with several of these itineraries featuring overnight city stays.’

All new itineraries on board Queen Elizabeth will be available to book from September 29, 2020. ‘Queen Elizabeth’s new programme will be completed with a series of seven and 14 night voyages in the Mediterranean, sailing from Barcelona. It is an exciting new programme which I am sure will have great appeal,’ Palethorpe said.

‘Additionally, recognising the immense disappointment of those on board Queen Mary 2’s curtailed World Voyage this year, and the cancellation of her World Voyage in 2021, we are delighted that Queen Mary 2 will sail a classic World Voyage in 2022. This will replace her scheduled sailings departing January 3, 2022 to April 3, 2022, including the voyage to South America,’ he added.

The new 118 night adventure will depart roundtrip from New York on January 3, 2022 and include calls to Greece, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Australia and Bali before returning to Southampton via Abu Dhabi, Oman, Italy and Portugal. The ship will sail through the Suez Canal both on the outbound journey and on return. It will be bookable, either as a full world voyage or as one of six sectors, from September 8, 2020.

Cunard will be contacting guests and travel agents who are impacted and all guests who have had their voyage cancelled will automatically receive an enhanced 125 percent Future Cruise Credit or alternatively can fill in the website form for a 100 percent refund.

Full details of the changes to operations and options available to guests due to travel on cancelled voyages, as well as the latest updates, can be found at www.cunard.com, it said.

Heathrow announces extended summer getaway season

Heathrow has announced its summer getaway schedule for 2020, offering travellers and holidaymakers increased choice in direct, short-haul travel.

Heathrow’s new summer network follows airlines’ decision to consolidate some of their operations into the UK’s Hub Airport. While most of the summer routes are being offered by Heathrow’s biggest carrier – British Airways, the airport has also welcomed new carriers, such as Czech Airlines.

Passengers flying from Heathrow now have a choice of over 25 new sunny, short-haul and low-cost leisure destinations to fly directly to, including numerous routes that are new to the airport – Dubrovnik, Genoa and Verona. Holidaymakers looking for a beach getaway are offered over 13 weekly flights to Greece via Thessaloniki, Rhodes and Heraklion. For passengers planning an Italian vacation and riviera waters, there are 10 weekly flights to Naples and three weekly flights to Genoa. And for those looking to stay closer to home, there are now five weekly flights to the Cornish coast, via Newquay and 21 weekly flights to Jersey for an island break.

The airport’s new routes come after strict safety protocols and the adoption of advanced technologies to protect passengers and colleagues from the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 at the airport. This includes UV technology to ensure the continuous disinfection of moving handrails, UV-ray cleaning robots, and self-cleaning anti-viral wraps fitted to security trays. ‘Fly Safe Pit Stop’ points are now available across the airport, where passengers can pick up face masks, anti-viral wipes and hand sanitiser free of charge.

Ross Baker, Heathrow’s Chief Commercial Officer said: ‘Heathrow is ready for another summer getaway season, with new technology and processes now in place to ensure our passengers are safe to fly. With our departure boards filling up with short-haul, low-cost destinations, travellers may be surprised with what’s on offer at the UK’s Hub airport and find themselves at Heathrow’s doors for the first time. Whether you are new to the airport, or if we are welcoming you back, Heathrow is ready to help you travel to reunite with your friends and family, to visit somewhere exciting and new, or to find some much-needed calm and relaxation.’

The food and retail experience at Heathrow Airport has also been transformed ahead of the summer schedule. In line with UK Government guidance, a wide range of retail is now open, from World Duty Free and Dixons Travel to the Harry Potter Shop. All shops, cafes and restaurants accept contactless payment, and by using the Heathrow app and Heathrow Boutique service passengers can ensure an entirely contact-free experience, ordering takeaway food to pick up and pre-reserving items before even getting to the airport.

Tui to restart flight programme on July 11

Tui, a multinational travel and tourism company headquartered in Germany, has announced that it is to fly to eight destinations when it restarts its flight programme on July 11.

The company’s restart has been put back from the initial July 1 target due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions. The eight destinations available from July 11 are in Spain and Greece, following a recent announcement that travellers arriving in Spain would not be subject to the two-week quarantine as currently imposed on arrivals to the UK .

The destinations that will be available are; Crete, Rhodes, Kos and Corfu in the Greek Islands, Tenerife and Lanzarote in Spain’s Canary Islands, and Mallorca and Ibiza in the Balearics. Subject to advice from the UK government, Tui also plans to increase its number of destinations to 19 by the end of July, served by five UK airports. Face masks will be compulsory for travellers on the company’s flights, while other antiviral measures by the airline include digital check-in, increased aircraft disinfection and social distancing arrangements at destination hotels.

The company has also said that it will only fly customers to destinations that will not require quarantine measures on arrival, and that in-resort support will be available to its customers around the clock, seven days a week.

Further destinations could be made available soon, as Tui’s commercial director Richard Sofer has said that the company has ‘absolute confidence’ that the British government will ultimately scrap its quarantine measures for travellers from abroad entering the UK.

Gatwick to reopen North Terminal to accommodate more flights

Gatwick has introduced several measures to protect the health and safety of both passengers and staff, as the airport prepares to reopen its North Terminal today, June 15, with several airlines planning to scale up their flying programmes.

As part of the new safety measures, passengers will be required to wear a face covering within the airport with Gatwick staff mandated to wear face coverings in customer interface areas of the terminals. Face mask vending machines will also be made available at the airport. Good hand-hygiene will be encouraged with sign-posted hand washing facilities and numerous hand sanitising stations – including touch-free models. The airport will also ensure frequent deep cleaning of common-use surfaces throughout the airport with teams available to respond to any passenger concerns on cleanliness. Social distancing procedures will be in place at check in, security, gate rooms, seating in departure halls and in restaurants, bars and shops; and Perspex screens will be throughout the terminals, including check in desks, and gate rooms.

Gatwick will now also increase its operating hours to 0600-22.00 and easyJet has announced that it is restarting flights from the North Terminal on June 15 alongside Wizz Air, Ryanair, Belavia, Vueling and Blue Island.

Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive, Gatwick Airport, said: ‘Having remained open throughout this pandemic the wellbeing and safety of our passengers and everyone that works at the airport remains our top priority. We have introduced a range of new social distancing and hygiene solutions to help this happen so we can all help protect each other when travelling through the airport. We want people to understand that airports and air travel is a safe environment in this COVID-19 travelling world.’

‘We are pleased to be in a position to re-open the North Terminal and we look forward to welcoming back easyJet as they restart flights alongside our other airlines. The recent Government announcement regarding the 14-day quarantine period for passengers arriving into the UK is, in our opinion, already having an impact on the start of air travel recovery. We accept the Government’s absolute priority is the protection of public health, but we continue to push for regular, country by country reviews of quarantine regulations, based on medical evidence.’

Passengers travelling through the airport are encouraged to check the travel guidance before they leave home https://www.gatwickairport.com/at-the-airport/passenger-services/coronavirus/, Gatwick said. In addition to passenger guidance available online and via passenger app, digital and physical signage advising passengers of the new health measures is displayed throughout the airport. Further, a new film will also be aired that informs passengers of the new guidance and what to expect when travelling through the airport.

Cunard extends suspension of operations

Cunard, the luxury British cruise line, has said that as a result of the continued impact of Covid-19, it will be extending the suspension of its operations.

Cunard currently operates three ships: Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, with destinations including Europe, the Caribbean, the Far East and Australia. For its ships Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, Cunard is cancelling all sailings that were due to depart up to and including 1 November, 2020 and for Queen Elizabeth, departures up to and including the 23 November, 2020.

Cunard President, Simon Palethorpe, said, ‘With many differing restrictions across countries, people’s ability to move freely and safely across borders remains seemingly someway in the distance. For Cunard, where we celebrate having a truly international mix of guests and sail all over the world, this becomes particularly impactful. We also need to better understand the implications Covid-19 will have on board our ships. We are therefore working, at the highest level possible, with government bodies, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the CDC – and Public Health England, as well as the industry collective body – CLIA – and other expert medical professionals to review every aspect of a holiday with us.’

‘Whilst we have always taken pride in having the highest levels of health and safety, we are looking at enhanced protocols across all aspects of ship life and experiences on shore. We will only return to service when we have a comprehensive restart protocol with the stamps of approval and accreditation from the most trusted and informed sources,’ Palethorpe added.

Cunard will be communicating with all guests, and their travel advisors, who are booked on affected voyages, it said. As Cunard has done earlier during this pause period, guests who are booked on cancelled voyages will automatically be given a 125 percent Future Cruise Credit. This can be redeemed against any new booking made by the end of December 2021 on any voyage that’s on sale at the time of booking.