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Travel

Japan has the world’s most powerful passport – but it’s currently meaningless

The latest ranking of the world’s passports is out, with Japan’s crowned the most powerful – but the current situation renders the results meaningless, according to the study’s authors.

The Henley Passport Index, first launched in 2006, is one of the leading rankings of countries’ travel documents, determining their strength by the number of destinations passport holders can visit visa-free or by getting a visa on arrival.

However, for the first time in its 14-year history, the Index is defunct, as nations around the world have imposed strict travel bans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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“A Swiss citizen can, in theory, travel to 185 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance, but the last few weeks have made it apparent that travel freedom is contingent on factors that occasionally can be utterly beyond our control,” said Dr Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index.

“This is, of course, something that citizens of countries with weak passports in the lower ranks of the index are all too familiar with.

“As public health concerns and security rightfully take precedence over all else now, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past.”

Some 3.5 billion people, nearly half the global population, are presently living in voluntary or mandatory confinement.

However, when the restrictions list, we could see a greater rise in the movement of people, according to some experts.

Founder and managing partner of FutureMap, Dr Parag Khanna, said: “Once quarantines lift and airline prices stand at rock bottom, expect more people across the globe to gather their belongings and buy one-way tickets to countries affordable enough to start fresh.”

Although only theoretical at present, Japan was followed in the rankings by Singapore, with a score of 190, followed by Germany in third place, joint with South Korea.

The UK is currently ranked 7th on the index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 185. It shares the position with the US.

Although its travel freedom score has increased by 19 points over the last decade, in 2010, the UK ranked number one worldwide.

The UAE has seen the biggest increase in travel freedom over the past 10 years, going from being ranked 65th in 2010 to 18th this year, having added 107 visa-free or visa-on-arrival destinations in that time.

Afghanistan currently has the world’s least powerful passport, with a score of 26.

World’s most powerful passports

1. Japan

2. Singapore

3. Germany

3. South Korea

4. Finland

4. Italy

4. Luxembourg

4. Spain

5. Austria

5. Denmark

World’s least powerful passports

1. Afghanistan

2. Iraq

3. Syria

4. Pakistan

5. Somalia

5. Yemen​

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Travel

Air travel suffers sharpest decline in demand since 9/11

Air travel has experienced the steepest decline in demand since the terror attacks of 9/11 according to the latest figures released by the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Iata said in its latest report on global passenger traffic that demand in February 2020 fell by 14.1 per cent compared to February 2019.

This figure was skewed by China, which faced “collapsing domestic travel”, with demand falling by 83.6 per cent.

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Asia-Pacific as a whole was also heavily impacted. Demand on flights to, from and within the region fell by 41.3 per cent due to coronavirus, as well as travel restrictions imposed by governments.

Africa also saw a fall in demand by 0.7 per cent.

In contrast however, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe actually saw a slight increase in demand of 5.5 per cent, 3.1 per cent, 1.7 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively compared to the previous year.

As a sign of things to come, Iata said that despite airlines axing flights across the board to reflect the plunging traffic – global capacity fell by 8.7 per cent in February – planes only had a load factor (the number of people on board) of 75.9 per cent, falling by 4.8 per cent compared to the same time last year.

But even this is likely wiped out in March 2020, with airlines reporting no new bookings and only cancellations.

EasyJet, for example, has grounded its entire fleet. Ryanair, which announced in March that there would be no more flights until June, is now operating a handful of flights as part of a skeleton service. And British Airways has furloughed 36,000 staff as it deals with its extensive cancellations.

Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general and CEO, said: “Airlines were hit by a sledgehammer called Covid-19 in February.

“Borders were closed in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. And the impact on aviation has left airlines with little to do except cut costs and take emergency measures in an attempt to survive in these extraordinary circumstances.

“The 14.1 per cent global fall in demand is severe, but for carriers in Asia-Pacific the drop was 41 per cent. And it has only grown worse. Without a doubt this is the biggest crisis that the industry has ever faced.”

In its latest estimate at the end of March, Iata predicted the global air travel industry will lose £211bn this year.

This is more than double of the £87bn figure it had predicted at the beginning of March.

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Travel

Covid 19 coronavirus: New Zealanders from cruise ship anxious to get home

By RNZ

New Zealanders being repatriated from a cruise ship off Western Australia were escorted by police to their flight.

Yesterday, after two weeks on board the cruise ship without disembarking once, the 108 New Zealanders were finally allowed on solid ground in Fremantle in Western Australia overnight.

They are expected to arrive in Auckland this afternoon.

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Travel

Covid 19 coronavirus: Qatar Airways adds extra flights to New Zealand

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While most airlines are slashing or suspending operations due to Covid-19, Qatar Airways has extended its service for the Doha to Auckland route, to help get more Kiwis home.

The original date of suspension for the airline was April 15, and the service until then was only running four days a week.

The airline has now decided to operate daily flights to New Zealand until April 17, when it will suspend the service until June.

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Travel

Covid 19 Coronavirus: Ryanair hikes reebooking fees while closing help lines

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As Ryanair grounds its European airfleet and mothballs its customer service lines, customers say they are being gouged to rebook cancelled flights.

The airline has been accused of charging passengers more to rebook flights than buy new ones.

In some cases the airline was charging $160 for changing cancelled fares, in spite of a promise of “fee-free” cancellations.

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Coronavirus crisis will see 75 million travel jobs lost worldwide without government intervention

Without government intervention, there’s an “immediate risk” that 75 million people working in the travel industry around the world could lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis, according to new research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). 

Each day, one  million jobs in the travel and tourism sector are lost, say the findings.

The figure represents a 50 per cent increase from the predictions made by WTTC less than two weeks ago and has severe implications for the world economy.

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This year alone, travel and tourism GDP loss to the world economy could be as much as US$2.1tn (£1.76tn), the WTTC said.

The Asia Pacific region is expected to be the most heavily affected, with up to 49 million jobs at risk.

In Europe, up to 10 million jobs are at risk, with Germany being hit the hardest, followed by Russia.

The Americas could also see around 10 million jobs lost, with seven million of these spread across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said: “The number of jobs now at risk in the global Travel and Tourism sector is a staggering 75 million, bringing real and profound worry to millions of families around the world.

“This chilling new figure also represents the collective delay by many governments around the world to react quickly enough to come to the aid of a sector which is the backbone of the global economy.”

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

1/20

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

Ms Guevara added: “If urgent action is not taken within the next few days, the Travel and Tourism sector faces an economic meltdown from which it will struggle to recover and plunge millions of people dependent upon it for their livelihoods into debt.

“Not only will this have an enormous negative impact on major businesses in the Travel and Tourism sector around the world, the ‘domino effect’ will also result in massive job losses across the entire supply chain, hitting employees and those in self-employment.

“We call on all those in positions of power to help the powerless and enact policies to support and sustain a sector which is a driving force of the global economy and responsible for generating one in five of all new jobs.”

The research comes as similarly catastrophic predictions were made for the air travel industry.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) updated its analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on 24 March, predicting that the air travel industry stands to lose as much as £211bn this year.

This figure is more than double the prediction Iata made earlier this month.

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Travel

Coronavirus Strands Spring Break Travelers in St. Barth and Anguilla



a harbor filled with water and a mountain in the background: Travel restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic has left even the one percent scrambling for airline seats out of St. Barth and Anguilla.
a sandy beach next to a body of water: Anguilla, a British overseas territory, closed its port on March 20th.
a large airplane flying high up in the air: Travelers to St. Bart
a close up of a boat next to a body of water: The St. Barth Bucket Regatta, one island’s biggest annual events, was cancelled.
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Some travelers to St. Barth have been able to get connecting flights out of San Juan.

Although the two small islands are separated by only 27 miles of Caribbean sea and both are high-end, beach-ringed sanctuaries for East Coasters, Anguilla and St. Barth could not be more different. Anguilla is where billionaires go to get their beach bum on; St. Barth is where they go in high season to flaunt their mega yachts.

Each has its aficionados, who sometimes deign to take a day trip to their neighbor (about 40 minutes by boat), while remaining set in their affinity. But on the weekend of March 13—start of college and private school spring break and high season par excellence—the most devoted among them, those who had not canceled hotel and villa reservations despite intensifying coronavirus uncertainties, found themselves in the same boat: desperately trying to figure out how to flee paradise and get back home.

“It’s eerie when something is so beautiful you think surely it’s the safest place to be, but then suddenly you’re told it’s not,” said New York-based jewelry designer and philanthropist Brooke Garber Neidich, who has been coming to St. Bart’s for 35 years and arrived on March 14 to check on the progress on a house she and her husband are building on the island’s Baie des Flamands, next to LVMH’s newly expanded Cheval Blanc St. Bart’s hotel. Neidich and her husband were among the fortunate.

“We came by charter,” she added. “We figured, well, [if things go south], we can always turn around and leave — and we did!” she said.

But for others things would get rougher by the day. On March 12, before most spring breakers had arrived, St. Maarten banned flights and passengers from Germany from landing at its Princess Juliana International Airport. SXM, as it’s called for short, is a hub, along with San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU), for visitors to Anguilla and St. Barth. From there, they board connecting flights on smaller aircraft operated by the likes of Seabourne, Tradewinds Aviation, or Winair, or, if headed to Anguilla, they board a ferry from a dock near SXM.

By Saturday, March 14, St. Maarten announced it was banning all flights from the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States, effective Tuesday the 17. A day later, on March 15, France announced a lockdown. What ensued was pure chaos.

Anguilla: “Many of us are stranded”

“St. Maarten said the airport would remain open so people could get off,” said a Westchester-based Anguilla homeowner who’d arrived on the island on Friday the 13th on JetBlue and had a return flight booked with them. “But airlines promptly canceled all flights both ways, including mine. While the hotels are mostly empty, there are people in villas, and quite a few private jets. But many of us are stranded. There was to my knowledge no ‘get yourselves home’ order from the State Department until most countries had closed their borders and all remaining flights were full—or wildly overbooked.”

On Anguilla, the homeowner continued, “tourists and expats with houses have sorted into two groups, those who are getting out via various means—Delta or United via SXM, charter to Puerto Rico’s SJU, etcetera—and those who decided it’s safer here.”

There are no COVID-19 cases diagnosed on Anguilla as yet and everyone with symptoms is being assiduously quarantined. “Everyone assumes it’s here nonetheless,” another frequent visitor said, “but it has been impressive to see how the island has coped. There have been regular, clear announcements from the health department, premier, and governor, all with consistent facts and advice. Locals are concerned but calm—they have been through so much, what with the destruction of Hurricane Irma [which struck in 2017]. They have set up a service to shop for seniors. And some take-out places give you an appointment time for your pick up, so there are never more than two people shopping at once. Restaurants are open but distancing table. Not everyone is observing protocols, but more do so every day.”

However, SXM Airport, my friend from Westchester said, “was bedlam”—she’d made two ferry trips there from Anguilla to catch flights on which she’d re-booked herself but about whose cancellations she had not been notified.

“Delta and Winair reps kept trying to pawn me off on each other. And there were no signs of Seabourne or JetBlue staff in the terminal. I looked because I would have liked to strangle one. I realize this is an unprecedented situation, but none of the airlines has covered itself with glory,” she said.

“I am fit, well-off, have a place to stay back on Anguilla, had just a carry on, and can speak up for myself. If any of those had been different, I would have been far worse off. If the airlines want a $50 billion bailout, they will need to prove themselves competent to spend it. And they must have an obligation of care toward passengers, as in the E.U.”

St. Barth: “The island is almost completely shut down”

On St. Barth, Olivia Junieres was not going anywhere—she lives there and owns a consultancy/concierge company on the island, the O Agency. When I spoke to her last week, she said she had seen from her office window one Tradewinds flight from Puerto Rico landing earlier in the day on St. Barth’s notoriously perilous (and picturesque) tiny airstrip.

But otherwise, “the island is almost completely shut down. Our Bucket Regatta, which marks the high season for us and happens this week, was canceled. It’s the source of much of the annual income for many local businesses. The hotels are now closed through April 1, as are the restaurants and all but essential services. But I’m fairly certain that another 15- to 30-day quarantine will be announced soon.” (St. Bart’s to date has three confirmed coronavirus cases.)

Richard Mishaan, an interior designer based in New York, had rented a villa for his stay and arrived on St. Bart’s via St. Maarten on March 14. “At SXM, we saw an Air France plane that was sealed and grounded; there were five Germans aboard and they were being isolated, I was told. Once on St. Bart’s, we had dinner with friends at Maya’s (the popular see-and-be-seen spot on Gustavia harbor) and woke on Sunday to the news that the St. Maarten airport is closed to all incoming flights. That started to make us very uncomfortable. I was able to get flights to get back home the following day through Puerto Rico, but other friends had to wait until Wednesday, and some until Thursday. In San Juan, national guardsmen were taking people’s temperature at random. And the immigration officer told us that they had locked down the flights after ours.”

The Local Impact

Anguilla closed its port to passengers on midnight Friday, March 20, although cargo will continue coming in, if on a reduced schedule. French citizens on St. Barth and all other French Caribbean territories (there were still a few on Guadeloupe and Saint-Martin, Junieres told me) had to return home by last night, Sunday, March 22.

Neidich, back in New York, is self-quarantining from her two-year-old grandson. “He doesn’t understand social distancing,” she said, laughing. “But I was at dinner with nine people at Tamarind [another popular St. Bart’s spot] on Sunday. We sat at a round table. We didn’t hug or kiss, but we were not 6 feet apart.”

There is wide concern about the local St. Barth economy. “The major hotels make money here through April—that is now largely ruined,” Junieres said. “Normally, they stay open through the summer as well, to accommodate the mainly French clientele that arrives here between July 15 and August 15—whoever is not going to St. Tropez, or Greece, or Ibiza that year. They are able to stay open then because of the money they made in the early spring and the real money they start making again in November. Their not opening in the summer will affect restaurants and other businesses here. 

“And this,” she sighed, “was going to be our first normal winter and spring since 2016. [Irma wreaked devastation in 2017.] But I believe the owner crowd will be back as soon as soon as they can. They are having work done on their houses.”

My friend from Anguilla returned home on the last flight out on Friday night from St. Maarten, on United to Newark, New Jersey. “If one more person on the plane talked about the last choppers getting out of Saigon in 1975, I would have coughed on them,” she said. “Everyone at the ferry or airport had a story about canceled flights, crazy itineraries (one family with a bunch of kids was flying to St. Kitts and just hoping for an onward flight), and lack of communication from airlines and the U.S. government.”

As for the COVID-19 situation on Anguilla, “still no positive diagnoses,” she said. “But there are concerns about Anguillans who came home last week, including 24 students, who were told to self-isolate and are not. But as one local told me, “everyone knows who they are and runs away from them.”

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Air travel industry to lose £211 billion due to coronavirus, experts predict

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to lead to a $252bn (£211bn) drop in revenue for the air travel sector, the leading industry body has predicted .

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) updated its analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on 24 March, more than doubling its previous estimate of $113bn (£96bn) in revenue loss.

The new figure takes into account the severity of travel restrictions worldwide, which could be in place for three months, and the expected global recession that will follow the 12-week shut-down.

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Iata forecasts that passenger revenue could be down 44 per cent year-on-year from 2019.

“The airline industry faces its gravest crisis,” said Iata’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac. “Within a matter of a few weeks, our previous worst-case scenario is looking better than our latest estimates. 

“But without immediate government relief measures, there will not be an industry left standing. Airlines need $200bn in liquidity support simply to make it through. 

“Some governments have already stepped forward, but many more need to follow suit.”

Passenger demand for the whole of 2020 is expected to fall by 38 per cent compared to 2019; industry capacity could decline 65 per cent in the second quarter alone (1 April to 30 June).

The worst hit region is likely to be Asia Pacific, where passenger revenue will be down $88bn (£74bn), representing a drop of 37 per cent from last year, followed by Europe, which will lose out on $76bn (£64bn).

As it updated its findings, Iata called on governments around the world to step in and offer a package of measures to support the aviation industry, including direct financial support for airlines; loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market by the Government or Central Banks; and tax relief, such as rebates on payroll taxes paid in 2020 and temporary waivers of ticket taxes and other government-imposed levies.

“My message to governments that have taken up this cause is to say thank you for leading,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO. “And keep watching the situation as it develops because we may need you to do more.

“My message to governments that are considering doing something is to hurry-up. Every day matters.

“For all the others, the potential for a $252bn fall in revenues is an alarm bell. This is apocalypse now and you must act fast.”

It comes as the UK government confirmed there will be no industry-wide bailout for airlines and airports.

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Coronavirus Strands Spring Breaker Travelers in St. Barth and Anguilla



a harbor filled with water and a mountain in the background: Travel restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic has left even the one percent scrambling for airline seats out of St. Barth and Anguilla.
a sandy beach next to a body of water: Anguilla, a British overseas territory, closed its port on March 20th.
a large airplane flying high up in the air: Travelers to St. Bart
a close up of a boat next to a body of water: The St. Barth Bucket Regatta, one island’s biggest annual events, was cancelled.
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Some travelers to St. Barth have been able to get connecting flights out of San Juan.

Although the two small islands are separated by only 27 miles of Caribbean sea and both are high-end, beach-ringed sanctuaries for East Coasters, Anguilla and St. Barth could not be more different. Anguilla is where billionaires go to get their beach bum on; St. Barth is where they go in high season to flaunt their mega yachts.

Each has its aficionados, who sometimes deign a day trip to their neighbor (about 40 minutes by boat), while remaining set in their affinity. But on the weekend of March 13—start of college and private school spring break and high season par excellence—the most devoted among them, those who had not canceled hotel and villa reservations despite intensifying Coronavirus uncertainties, found themselves in the same boat: desperately trying to figure out how to flee paradise and get back home.

“It’s eerie when something is so beautiful you think surely it’s the safest place to be, but then suddenly you’re told it’s not,” said New York-based jewelry designer and philanthropist Brooke Garber Neidich, who has been coming to St. Bart’s for 35 years and arrived on March 14 to check on the progress on a house she and her husband are building on the island’s Baie des Flamands, next to LVMH’s newly expanded Cheval Blanc St. Bart’s hotel. Neidich and her husband were among the fortunate.

“We came by charter,” she added. “We figured, well, [if things go south], we can always turn around and leave — and we did!” she said.

But for others things would get rougher by the day. On March 12, before most spring breakers had arrived, St. Maarten banned flights and passengers from Germany from landing at its Princess Juliana International Airport. SXM, as it’s called for short, is a hub, along with San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU), for visitors to Anguilla and St. Barth. From there, they board connecting flights on smaller aircraft operated by the likes of Seabourne, Tradewinds Aviation, or Winair, or, if headed to Anguilla, they board a ferry from a dock near SXM.

By Saturday, March 14, St. Maarten announced it was banning all flights from the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States, effective Tuesday the 17. A day later, on March 15, France announced a lockdown. What ensued was pure chaos.

Anguilla: “Many of us are stranded”

“St. Maarten said the airport would remain open so people could get off,” said a Westchester-based Anguilla homeowner who’d arrived on the island on Friday the 13th on JetBlue and had a return flight booked with them. “But airlines promptly canceled all flights both ways, including mine. While the hotels are mostly empty, there are people in villas, and quite a few private jets. But many of us are stranded. There was to my knowledge no ‘get yourselves home’ order from the State Department until most countries had closed their borders and all remaining flights were full—or wildly overbooked.”

On Anguilla, the homeowner continued, “tourists and expats with houses have sorted into two groups, those who are getting out via various means—Delta or United via SXM, charter to Puerto Rico’s SJU, etcetera—and those who decided it’s safer here.”

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There are no COVID-19 cases diagnosed on Anguilla as yet and everyone with symptoms is being assiduously quarantined. “Everyone assumes it’s here nonetheless,” another frequent visitor said, “but it has been impressive to see how the island has coped. There have been regular, clear announcements from the health department, premier, and governor, all with consistent facts and advice. Locals are concerned but calm—they have been through so much, what with the destruction of Hurricane Irma [which struck in 2017]. They have set up a service to shop for seniors. And some take-out places give you an appointment time for your pick up, so there are never more than two people shopping at once. Restaurants are open but distancing table. Not everyone is observing protocols, but more do so every day.”

However, SXM Airport, my friend from Westchester said, “was bedlam”—she’d made two ferry trips there from Anguilla to catch flights on which she’d re-booked herself but about whose cancellations she had not been notified.

“Delta and Winair reps kept trying to pawn me off on each other. And there were no signs of Seabourne or JetBlue staff in the terminal. I looked because I would have liked to strangle one. I realize this is an unprecedented situation, but none of the airlines has covered itself with glory,” she said.

“I am fit, well-off, have a place to stay back on Anguilla, had just a carry on, and can speak up for myself. If any of those had been different, I would have been far worse off. If the airlines want a $50 billion bailout, they will need to prove themselves competent to spend it. And they must have an obligation of care toward passengers, as in the E.U.”

St. Barth: “The island is almost completely shut down”

On St. Barth, Olivia Junieres was not going anywhere—she lives there and owns a consultancy/concierge company on the island, the O Agency. When I spoke to her last week, she said she had seen from her office window one Tradewinds flight from Puerto Rico landing earlier in the day on St. Barth’s notoriously perilous (and picturesque) tiny airstrip.

But otherwise, “the island is almost completely shut down. Our Bucket Regatta, which marks the high season for us and happens this week, was canceled. It’s the source of much of the annual income for many local businesses. The hotels are now closed through April 1, as are the restaurants and all but essential services. But I’m fairly certain that another 15- to 30-day quarantine will be announced soon.” (St. Bart’s to date has three confirmed coronavirus cases.)

Richard Mishaan, an interior designer based in New York, had rented a villa for his stay and arrived on St. Bart’s via St. Maarten on March 14. “At SXM, we saw an Air France plane that was sealed and grounded; there were five Germans aboard and they were being isolated, I was told. Once on St. Bart’s, we had dinner with friends at Maya’s (the popular see-and-be-seen spot on Gustavia harbor) and woke on Sunday to the news that the St. Maarten airport is closed to all incoming flights. That started to make us very uncomfortable. I was able to get flights to get back home the following day through Puerto Rico, but other friends had to wait until Wednesday, and some until Thursday. In San Juan, national guardsmen were taking people’s temperature at random. And the immigration officer told us that they had locked down the flights after ours.”

The Local Impact

Anguilla closed its port to passengers on midnight Friday, March 20, although cargo will continue coming in, if on a reduced schedule. French citizens on St. Barth and all other French Caribbean territories (there were still a few on Guadeloupe and Saint-Martin, Junieres told me) had to return home by last night, Sunday, March 22.

Neidich, back in New York, is self-quarantining from her two-year-old grandson. “He doesn’t understand social distancing,” she said, laughing. “But I was at dinner with nine people at Tamarind [another popular St. Bart’s spot] on Sunday. We sat at a round table. We didn’t hug or kiss, but we were not 6 feet apart.”

There is wide concern about the local St. Barth economy. “The major hotels make money here through April—that is now largely ruined,” Junieres said. “Normally, they stay open through the summer as well, to accommodate the mainly French clientele that arrives here between July 15 and August 15—whoever is not going to St. Tropez, or Greece, or Ibiza that year. They are able to stay open then because of the money they made in the early spring and the real money they start making again in November. Their not opening in the summer will affect restaurants and other businesses here. 

“And this,” she sighed, “was going to be our first normal winter and spring since 2016. [Irma wreaked devastation in 2017.] But I believe the owner crowd will be back as soon as soon as they can. They are having work done on their houses.”

My friend from Anguilla returned home on the last flight out on Friday night from St. Maarten, on United to Newark, New Jersey. “If one more person on the plane talked about the last choppers getting out of Saigon in 1975, I would have coughed on them,” she said. “Everyone at the ferry or airport had a story about canceled flights, crazy itineraries (one family with a bunch of kids was flying to St. Kitts and just hoping for an onward flight), and lack of communication from airlines and the U.S. government.”

As for the COVID-19 situation on Anguilla, “still no positive diagnoses,” she said. “But there are concerns about Anguillans who came home last week, including 24 students, who were told to self-isolate and are not. But as one local told me, “everyone knows who they are and runs away from them.”

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Travel

Thousands of stranded British travellers lose hope and beg for rescue amid coronavirus lockdown

Tens of thousands of UK travellers are stranded around the world, unable to get home despite the government’s call for them to do so.

The Foreign Office warned against travel abroad on Tuesday 17 March. But it was not until Monday 23 March that holidaymakers, business travellers and people visiting friends and families were urged to come home.

By then, for many people, it was too late.

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Dozens of stranded travellers have contacted The Independent to ask for help, all of them saying that UK missions abroad have been unable or unwilling to help.

Some of more than 600 British travellers in Peru are likely to be brought home in the next day or two.

A British Airways Boeing 777, the first of “several” promised rescue flights is on its way to Lima, and is expected to arrive late afternoon local time in the Peruvian capital.

But thousands of other travellers are trapped – particularly in New Zealand, the South Pacific and southeast Asia – with many more in far-flung locations.

“The prospect of being trapped on the other side of the world from loved ones and pets at a time of crisis is terrifying,” Nina Rosenberger told The Independent

Along with her partner, Ed Pocock, they have been in New Zealand on a holiday they had planned for two years.

“We left when the UK was still given the advice that it was safe to travel, apart from China and Italy, and arrived in NZ before the traveller self-isolation ruling.

“Unfortunately, our flights home are now cancelled and there are no options for returning home as Australia, UAE and Singapore have all moved to ban transit.

“We’re unable to contact airlines who have closed their phone lines and travel insurers are so overwhelmed by requests we’re yet to reach them.

“The British High Commission is still giving advice for people to work with airlines to rebook flights, but this is not possible as all flights have already been cancelled and the earliest airlines are allowing rebookings for is July. 

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

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Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

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Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

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Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

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Cairo, Egypt

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Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

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Amman Citadel, Jordan

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Amman Citadel, Jordan

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Sidon, Lebanon

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Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

“The UK are showing no efforts currently to repatriate us and others in the same position.The New Zealand government’s advice to tourists trapped for the four-week lockdown is to stay in the same place, but there is no financial support from either them or the UK government.

“Some hotels and campsites are closing for the lockdown. My partner is self-employed and neither of us are able to work from NZ, so having to pay for both accommodation here and the rent for our London flat is daunting.”

Meya Isaac, who is trying to fly home from Fiji, said: “We’re just getting false information again and again and again.

“We can’t go via Auckland, we can’t go to America, we can’t go via Singapore or Australia. So that’s it. There are no flights going back to England.

“The government don’t regard us as a priority. The closest we may get to help is that the German government may be sending a plane over to Fiji, and if there’s enough space then we may be allowed on it.”

An FCO spokesperson said: “We recognise that any British people currently overseas may be nervous about the impact of coronavirus on their travel and their health.

“We are in close contact with travel providers and our international partners to provide support to those British people affected by ongoing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Some airlines, including British Airways, Qantas, Qatar Airways and North American carriers, are continuing to fly long-haul services, but bookings are extremely heavy – and last-minute cancellations are becoming very frequent.

On Monday evening, Etihad abruptly said all non-UAE citizens would be barred from all flights.

Emirates, the biggest carrier of intercontinental passengers in the world, is closing down its entire operations on Wednesday. 

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