Categories
Transport

Airlines Asked to Issue Refunds Following Bailout

Following Congress’ approval of a $25 billion bailout for struggling U.S. airlines, several senators have come forward urging 11 major airlines to issue full cash refunds to customers after canceling their flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least nine Democratic senators are urging more airlines to refund their customers, including Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Sheldon Whitehouse and Bob Casey. A majority of U.S. airlines are simply waiving cancelation fees rather than offering cash refunds.

“Americans need money now to pay for basic necessities, not temporary credits towards future travel,” the senators wrote.

American Airlines issued a response, claiming its “comprehensive travel waivers we’ve put in place are designed to meet the full range of our customers’ needs.” Other airlines such as Southwest Airlines Co, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have yet to respond.

According to MSN, hundreds of thousands of flights have been canceled by U.S. airlines within the past few weeks. Southwest claimed that 40 percent of flights will be cut from May 3 to June 5, with other carriers such and American, United, Delta and Alaska Airlines cutting over 60 percent of their flights.

While there is little demand for commercial flights in the U.S., the U.S. State Department is working with major airlines to help nearly 50,000 American citizens still abroad who may be in need of rescue flights in order to return home.

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Categories
Cruises

Occupancies at US Hotels Are at an All Time Low

With the COVID-19 pandemic effectively halting tourism around the world, hotels are facing a rough year with extraordinarily low occupancy rates. In the U.S. specifically, STR and Tourism Economics predict that RevPAR will drop 50.6 percent this year.

STR had originally expected occupancy to only drop 0.3 percent before the United States declared a nationwide emergency. Supply and demand had been expected to increase by 2 percent.

Now, according to Travel Weekly, occupancy is expected to fall by 42.6 percent to 37.9 percent while supply and demand may drop 14.9 percent and 51.2 percent, respectively.

“The industry was already set for a nongrowth year; now throw in this ultimate ‘black swan’ event, and we’re set to see occupancy drop to an unprecedented low,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights. “Our historical database extends back to 1987, and the worst we have ever seen for absolute occupancy was 54.6% during the financial crisis in 2009.”

While STR saw the steepest U.S. RevPAR decline in 30 years the week of March 21, Tourism Economics remains optimistic that the hotel industry will see a quick rebound once the pandemic is over. The president of Tourism Economics, Adam Sacks, predicts “the market to begin to regain its footing this summer.”

STR and Tourism Economics expect that U.S. hotel RevPAR will increase 63.1 percent in 2021, with occupancy increasing 57.3 percent to 59.7 percent and supply and demand increasing by 15.6 percent and 81.8 percent respectively.

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Categories
Travel

Flights: Shocking pictures reveal new life for UK’s grounded flights – where are they?

Coronavirus has thrown the travel industry into an unprecedented state, with airlines across the globe being forced to cancel journeys, severely reduce itineraries and ground huge portions of their fleet. In the UK alone airlines have seen their schedules slashed by up to 95 percent.

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  • British Airways, easyJet and Virgin to fly stranded Brits abroad

Though British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Jet2 are among those who are working with the government to repatriate Britons currently abroad, there remains a massive portion of their aircraft firmly on the ground.

While planes are usually en route to a destination, fuelling up at an international airport, or at a home base patiently awaiting its next lot of travellers, their reality looks for different for the time being.

Images have emerged of rows upon rows of popular airline’s fleet lines up, with no immediate plans to jet off anywhere.

Meanwhile, in the US taxiways, maintenance hangers and even runways have been transformed into special aircraft parking lots.

So, where exactly are UK aircraft being stored amid the COVID-19 crisis?

British Airways aircraft are being stored across the world at various airports, though here in the UK Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Nottingham, Glasgow and Cardiff Airports have all been reported to be providing a safe haven for the carriers.

Bournemouth airport has also taken on a large number of planes after the capital’s airports reached capacity.

According to The Points Guy UK one of BA’s A380 planes is grounded at London, meanwhile, another is being stored at Manila Airport in The Philippines.

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Two 747s are currently parked at Cardiff Airport, and six other 747s are residing at Heathrow.

Cardiff is also housing a Dreamliner, while nine others are at Heathrow having not operated a commercial flight since March 18.

The airline is also reportedly storing some of its fleet in Madrid, and others at Glasgow airport.

Express.co.uk has contacted BA for more insight into where its planes are being stored.

British Airways most recently suspended all of its Gatwick flights, following in the footsteps of easyJet which grounded its commercial planes.

“Over recent days, easyJet has been helping to repatriate customers, having operated more than 650 rescue flights to date, returning home more than 45,000 customers,” the airline said in a statement.

“The last of these rescue flights were operated on Sunday, March 29.

“We will continue to work with government bodies to operate additional rescue flights as requested.

“At this stage, there can be no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights.

“We will continuously evaluate the situation based on regulations and demand, and will update the market when we have a view.”

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The Luton-based carrier has parked all of its 334 planes, though it is not clear where they are all housed.

Images have emerged showing some grounded flights parked at Gatwick and Luton airports.

Express.co.uk has contacted easyJet for further comment.

In a similar move, Stansted airport’s biggest airline Ryanair says it expects the majority of its commercial flights to be grounded until June.

The Irish carrier said it does not anticipate operating scheduled services throughout April and May, though this is dependant on government advice.

According to the Ryanair website: “We expect that most if not all Ryanair Group flights will be grounded, except for a very small number of flights to maintain essential connectivity, mostly between the UK and Ireland.”

Like most airlines, it is likely a large portion of its fleet will be parked at one of the airline’s main bases, including Stansted and its primary Irish base in Dublin.

Express.co.uk has contacted Ryanair for further insight.

Yesterday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab explained how the UK government has teamed up with airlines at this time to bring Britons home.

The government has partnered with UK airlines including British Airways, easyJet, Virgin, Titan and Jet2 to set up a repatriation effort and ensure those who want to fly home are able to do so.

“The first priority is to keep as many commercial flights runnings as we can, and that’s based purely on the scale and the number of people who want to come home,” explained Raab.

The government will now be injecting £75 million into repatriation efforts in a bid to help commercial airlines continue to fly while keeping ticket costs as low as possible for travellers who wish to book onto flights.

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Categories
Travel

Airlines sued after refusing to refund cancelled flights

Five Canadian airlines are being sued for breach of contract after refusing to issue full refunds to travellers for cancelled flights amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The class-action lawsuit has been taken out against Air Canada, WestJet, Swoop, Air Transat and Sunwing.

The carriers, all of which have been heavily curtailing flight schedules since the Canadian government advised against all non-essential travel in mid-March, have been accused of only offering affected customers the option to rebook their journey for a later date.

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The complainants in the case argue that they are entitled to a full refund, as they may not wish to travel in future, and believe they might need the money during this uncertain and, in many cases, financially challenging time. 

“Each of the defendants are forcing the class members to forego their fundamental right to a refund and to spend their monies with the same defendant in the future to purchase travel that the class members may not wish to undertake any longer, and likely at a substantially different price,” the lawsuit, filed by British Columbia resident Janet Donaldson, reads.

The suit claims that the spread of coronavirus and subsequent global pandemic was “outside the passengers’ control”, and therefore warrants full refunds, reports FlightGlobal.

However, Air Transat, while declining to comment directly on the case, claimed it is within its rights to offer rebooking instead of refunds as the Covid-19 outbreak is a “force majeure” – a chance occurrence or unavoidable accident that is a common clause in contracts freeing both parties from liability or obligation.

“In such a force majeure situation, way beyond our span of control, we do not have to issue a full refund for travels that have not been completed,” an airline spokesperson told FlightGlobal

“By issuing a 24-month credit voucher, we believe that we are offering an acceptable solution. We are confident that our clients will be able to travel again in a not-too-remote future, once the crisis is over.”

Other airlines declined to comment when The Independent got in touch.

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Categories
Transport

Frontier slashes April capacity

Frontier is reducing April flight capacity by more than 90%, the largest cutback announced to date by a mainline U.S. carrier.

“It is the company’s belief that, if there is strong compliance with the U.S. government’s current guidance for Americans to stay at home for an additional 30 days, the airline will be in a position to gradually build flight capacity back up to as much as 35% in May and 100% in the latter half of the year,” the carrier said in a statement.

Frontier added that for the next several weeks, it will focus on implementation of innovative aircraft cleaning and sanitation methods as well as enhancements to operational systems.

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Categories
Destinations

UK dining chain Carluccio's succumbs to virus turmoil

Carluccio’s said its Irish operations and Middle East franchises would not be affected by the decision

Carluccio’s said its Irish operations and Middle East franchises would not be affected by the decision.

Britain-based Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s said Monday it has collapsed into administration, blaming challenging conditions made worse by the coronavirus outbreak.

The company said in a statement that it has appointed advisory firm FRP to oversee administration — the process whereby a troubled company calls in outside expertise to try and minimise job losses.

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The news threatens 2,000 employees at Carluccio’s, which has 71 restaurants around Britain.

The decision was taken “after a sustained period of challenging trading conditions, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the broader issues currently facing the UK’s retail and hospitality sector,” the statement said.

“The company faced significant cashflow pressures and as a result was ultimately unable to meet its financial obligations.”

Administrators will access the British government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough most of the staff while assessing options.

Meanwhile, they are meeting interested parties regarding the sale of all or chunks of the business.

Carluccio’s said its Irish operations and Middle East franchises would not be affected by the decision.

In further high-street gloom on Monday, controversial rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse also collapsed into administration — placing 2,400 jobs at risk.

BrightHouse, which has been accused of exploiting the poor with extremely high rates of interest, made the announcement days after closing around 240 stores due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Non-essential businesses have been told to temporarily shut down to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Britain, which is two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.

Interactive Investor analyst Richard Hunter told AFP: “to have been thrust into the list of businesses forced to close down temporarily as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak seems to have been the final straw for several.”

“Fixed costs remain but revenues all but evaporate,” Hunter noted.

“For those companies already working on wafer-thin margins, this has proved to be a step too far,” he said.

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Categories
Travel

NSW bush fire Koalas’ return to wild expedited by coronavirus

Australia can’t catch a break. No sooner had catastrophic bushfires died down, regional tourism was hit by crippling travel restrictions.

However, after the fires, there’s one group of marsupials for whom the Covid 19 pandemic could mean an early return to the wild.

In New South Wales a group of koalas, have been released back into the Kanangra-Boyd National park after a three month stay in Sydney Zoo.

Last week, a group of twelve koalas plus a joey, born during their stay in Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, were returned to Blue Mountains. The return to the wild has been fast-tracked due do the new travel restrictions being put in place by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Categories
Travel

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Categories
Transport

Airlines mull temporary service consolidation coronavirus

U.S. airlines are considering jointly consolidating services
during the Covid-19 crisis, according to a CNBC report. 

Under the $58 billion airline stimulus package that became
law on Friday, carriers that accept grants or federally guaranteed loans must
continue flying to each destination that they serve unless they receive Transportation
Department permission to do otherwise.

Consolidating operations to smaller markets could serve as a
workaround to that requirement. 

“Does it make sense for more than one of us to be flying to
a city when there are only a few seats filled on each plane,” CNBC quoted one
anonymous airline executive as saying. “It may make more sense to maintain
service to that city but to put all passengers on one plane.”

CNBC added that it spoke with executives of “multiple
airlines” about the concept, though those executives said the idea had not yet
been formally presented to the Transportation Department. 

The department didn’t offer a specific view on the concept
in a statement Monday. 

“This is an important issue and the department supports the
intent of maintaining a national network of air service to communities across
the country,” a DOT spokesperson said. 
We will have further guidance about how this will be accomplished in the
days to come.”

U.S. airlines have dramatically pared back schedules but are
nevertheless flying nearly empty planes. In a letter to employees Friday,
United CEO Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby said they expect April load
factor fall into the teens or even single digits, even with a capacity cut of
more than 60%. 

On March 29, the Transportation Security Administration
screened 180,000 passengers and crew members, compared with 2.5 million on the
same date last year. ARC reported an 88.5% year-over-year drop in the number of
tickets issued for the week ending March 29. 

According CNBC, if airlines were to jointly consolidate
service, they would continue to separately sell tickets for city pairs on which
they now compete. However, instead of three carriers flying New York
LaGuardia-St. Louis, for example, every passenger would be funneled onto a
single flight. Such an arrangement would require the completion of complicated
commercial agreements. 

The trade group Airlines for America declined to comment on
the topic Monday. United, Delta, Southwest and American either didn’t respond
to a request for comment or declined to comment. 

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Categories
Holiday

Expo 2020 expected to be postponed until next year

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates are expected to announce the postponement of Dubai Expo 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage global hospitality.

The jamboree was expected to begin on October 20th this year, kicking-off six months of celebrations in the emirate.

However, with global tourism in a virtual lockdown, organisers hope to allow time for a full recovery before the event.

Discussions are ongoing with the Bureau International des Expositions, the France-based organisation that awards hosting rights to the event, with a year-long delay expected.

A final decision can only be made by the bureau and the general assembly of nations.

In a statement on Monday, officials said they agreed to explore “the possibility of a one-year delay to the opening of Expo 2020”.

Many countries have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 and have consequently expressed a desire to postpone the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Reem Al Hashimy, Expo 2020 Dubai director-general, explained: “While they remain firmly committed to Expo 2020, many countries have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 and they have therefore expressed a need to postpone the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai by one year, to enable them to overcome this challenge.

“The United Arab Emirates and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened.”

Al Hashimy added: “We supported the proposal to explore a one-year postponement at the steering committee meeting.

“We look forward to welcoming the world, which we are certain will only come out of this pressing challenge stronger, and more resilient than it ever was.”

The announcement followed a virtual meeting of the Expo 2020 steering committee, representing UAE officials and foreign countries that were set to exhibit at the world fair.

Global events have been thrown into disarray by the coronavirus pandemic, with the Tokyo 2020 summer Olympic and Paralympic games postponed last week.

That decision followed an earlier move from UEFA to delay the European championships for a year – leaveing Expo 2020 as the only major event still on the calendar.

If confirmed, the delay of Expo 2020 will come as a significant blow to the tourism market in Dubai.

Officials had hoped to welcome as many as 25 million international visitors to the event, with many of these trips likely to be postponed.

However, with both Emirates and Etihad having suspended virtually all operations, severely limiting access to the United Arab Emirates, hosting the event has become untenable.

Dubai itself is currently under lockdown, with all restaurants, beaches, gyms and other public meeting places closed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

To date there have been over 600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United Arab Emirates, with six confirmed deaths.

Confirmed cases worldwide now number 725,000, with 34,000 dead.

Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of the Bureau International des Expositions, said he remained “confident that we will collectively overcome the challenges caused by this global crisis”.

He added: “The United Arab Emirates’ decision to support a one-year postponement demonstrates pragmatism, openness, and commitment to delivering an Expo that lives up to our shared ambition.

“We retain full confidence in the United Arab Emirates’ ability to host a world expo that inspires and delights millions, when the time is right.”

Authorities in Dubai are believed to have spent more than US$7 billion in preparation for the launch of Expo 2020.

Alongside the 4.38 square kilometre site on the outskirts of the city, dozens of new hotels have been built, while there has also been significant investment in wider infrastructure.

As the coronavirus pandemic has grown, work has been halted on construction, with as many as 30,000 workers downing tools as a result.

The news comes at a delicate time for hospitality in Dubai, which has been in the doldrums in early 2020.

Room rates have fallen, largely due to an excess of accommodation in advance of the expo debut, with visitor numbers also down on last year.

The cost of the hosting Expo 2020 had also raised concerns given the economic outlook in the Middle East.

Local authorities had hoped to resell the vast majority of the new expo facilities to private investors once the six-month event finished – a prospect increasingly unlikely during what is set to become a major global recession.

The market had already been teetering, with DAMAC Properties, the largest fully private real-estate developer in Dubai, announcing its first yearly loss since becoming a publicly traded company earlier.

Ratings agency S&P also downgraded the investment rating for Dubai real estate giant Emaar Properties, which is a third owned by the government.

When it opens Expo 2020 Dubai will be the first global showcase to take place in the Middle East, following successful events in Milan and Shanghai.

Organisers are gearing to offer events over 173 days, with 192 nations participating.

The theme centred on innovation, with countries and companies set to display projects in areas such as green energy, artificial intelligence and accessibility.

The event is designed to be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration – the largest event ever staged in the Arab world.

Guests will experience warm Emirati hospitality at its finest.

Youth are at the heart of the World Expo 2020, with the event aspiring to create a meaningful legacy that will benefit generations to come, both locally and globally, spanning everything from innovations and architecture to friendships and business opportunities.

Commenting on the current situation, director general Al Hashimy added: “As hosts of the next World Expo, scheduled to open in seven months’ time, we always knew that 2020 was going to be demanding, that we would have to be at our very best to deliver the most inclusive, most meaningful event in the history of our region.

“What we could not predict is that we would be doing so in the midst of the biggest global health crisis in generations.

“These are difficult, uncertain times, which makes it even more heartening to see communities around the world facing this challenge together and to witness the incredible resilience of the human spirit against a menace that does not recognise international borders or timelines.”

She added: “Today, however, for the United Arab Emirates and the world, our immediate priority is to overcome, together, this unprecedented menace and protect the health of all people, everywhere.”

More Information

For all the latest on Expo 2020 take a look at the dedicated Breaking Travel News feed, or head over to the official website.

For more on tourism in the emirate – considered the World’s Leading MICE Destination by voters at the World Travel Awards – visit the Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing website here.

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