As UK travellers wait to see what changes the government will make to the “traffic light” system, The Independent’s travel correspondent Simon Calder has made his predictions.
“The UK’s travel restrictions make us a laughing stock abroad – but they are also crippling airlines and holiday firms.
“Assuming the leaks are correct and the whole ludicrous system is to be dismantled, the industry will naturally be relieved – but will also demand to know why the government made going abroad so difficult for so long.
“The current restrictions aren’t just making holidaymakers jumpy about booking – they are also destroying inbound tourism to the UK, and hundreds of thousands of jobs with it.
“The red list is way too long. Travel to almost a third of the world’s countries requires thousands of pounds spent on 11 nights in a hotel room on arrival.
“Expert analysts concur that Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Dominican Republic, the Maldives, South Africa and Turkey should be taken off the red list. But as the government has shown many times, it can deliver wildly different conclusions.”
In other news, Qantas has scheduled flights between London and Sydney and London and Melbourne from 18 December.
Follow the latest travel news below:
Airbus A380s mostly idle around the world, new data show
The Airbus A380 has become a rarity at the world’s airports. Only one in six of the giant, double-deck passenger jets is actually in active service, according to operational data from the analysts Cirium.
As of yesterday, there were only 43 active “SuperJumbo” jet out of a total of 243 – just 17.7 per cent.
In 2019 only eight A380s were in storage – today the total is 200, which is 25 times higher.
The number of A380 flights scheduled to fly in the month of September has slumped even further: 1,150 in 2021 compared with 9,991 scheduled in September 2019 – an 88 per cent drop.
Since 2016, only eight A380s have been officially retired, according to Cirium’s fleet data.
Emirates of Dubai is by far the largest user of the aircraft type.
Airlines including Air France have said the giant plane will not be returning to their fleets.
Simon Calder15 September 2021 16:36
Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport gets new testing facility
The onsite laboratory offers passengers a “Fit to Fly” testing service with a three-hour turnaround, in addition to standard 24-hour testing.
It aims to eradicate “unclear” and lost test results and has been designed to perform 500 tests per day, but can be increased to handle 1,000 tests or more.
The news comes as bosses from Gatwick and Heathrow Airports call on the government to scrap testing for double vaccinated travellers.
Lucy Thackray15 September 2021 15:53
Vietnam will start phased reopening to tourists in October
Vietnam has announced plans to welcome tourists back to the country from October.
The Southeast Asian country will operate a phased reopening, starting with the popular holiday island of Phu Quoc.
Initially, only travellers who are double vaccinated against Covid will be permitted entry for non-essential reasons.
In addition, only tourists who have booked a package holiday from an approved travel agency will be allowed to visit.
Travellers will also be required to present a negative Covid test result taken within 72 hours of arrival and proof of both health and travel insurance.
Lucy Thackray15 September 2021 15:26
Mystery bags: Swiss offers unsold food at two-thirds discount on last flights of day
What do airline do with unsold food at the end of the day? Chuck it away, usually.
But Swiss is experimenting with cutting prices on the last flights of the day from Geneva by two-thirds – using a technique previously employed by Ryanair and Great Western Railway.
Intriguingly, passengers will know what exactly they are getting until they have paid.
On flights, a cabin crew announcement is made offering a bag containing “one, two or three such fresh food items at one third of their usual price”.
The bag’s contents are not revealed in advance, and remain a surprise for the purchaser.
Lucy Thackray15 September 2021 13:57
Sign up to Simon Calder’s free weekly newsletter
In last week’s newsletter, our travel expert Simon Calder tackled what he calls the UK government’s “zero tourism strategy”.
“Some say the UK lacks a strategy for international tourism. Nonsense: ministers clearly have a “zero tourism” strategy,” wrote Calder.
“Why else would vaccinated visitors from low-infection Germany be treated with deep medical suspicion?
“While you and I can enjoy a weekend in Munich or Leipzig with no more stress than presenting proof of vaccination on arrival at the flughafen, jabbed Germans keen on a short break in Manchester or London must take multiple tests at a typical cost of €100 (£86) – quite possibly more than the cost of flights.”
For free weekly travel updates – plus insider tips, and deals on breaks and holidays – sign up to The Independent’s free Travel Week newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox every Friday morning.
Lucy Thackray15 September 2021 13:04
When is the next UK travel update?
Going on the government’s stated goal of updating the UK’s “traffic light” travel lists every three weeks, the next update to the travel rules is likely to be today or tomorrow, 15 or 16 September, with changes likely coming into effect at 4am the following Monday (20 September).
Amendments to the lists are informed by public health advice, including the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s assessment of the latest data.
“These regular review points will allow the government to balance helping the public to understand Covid requirements when travelling to England while allowing us to constantly evaluate the risk for different countries,” said the Department for Transport (DfT) on launching the system.
Here’s everything we know about the next travel update so far:
Lucy Thackray15 September 2021 12:39
Your top travel questions answered by a Covid data expert
Ahead of the next traffic light travel announcement, Covid data expert Tim White has been analysing the latest information from genomic sequencing records held by GISAID, the worldwide database, with a focus on variants of concern.
At The Independent’s Ask Me Anything event yesterday, he answered 15 of the top reader travel queries on subjects from holidaying in Thailand to getting married in Greece.
To honeymooning couples with an eye on the Maldives, White said: “It’s my number one tip [for removal from the red list]. If Maldives is not removed then there is something severely wrong with the system and the people making decisions.”
Get Tim’s insider info on what could happen next for travel this autumn and winter by reading his answers here:
Lucy Thackray15 September 2021 11:57
Airlines and travel firms face millions in claims after applying wrong passport rules
Thousands of people have been wrongly denied boarding holiday flights to the EU because the government is misrepresenting post-Brexit rules on the validity of British passports.
The only tests on the day you travel:
- Was your passport issued in the past 10 years?
- Does it have three months validity remaining after your intended return date?
These conditions are independent of each other.
That means you could happily go to Europe today with a passport issued on 16 September 2011 valid to 16 March 2022.
Britain’s biggest holiday company, Tui, has now changed its policy to adhere to European Union law, not the UK’s misinterpretation of it.
Lucy Thackray15 September 2021 11:39
British Airways heads for the Azores – but not ‘Concorde Island’
BA appears to be continuing its expansion into holiday routes, with two new flights to mid-Atlantic islands planned for summer 2022 – according to London Air Travel.
The aviation website has tweeted: “British Airways is to launch a new routes in 2022 from London Heathrow Terminal 5 to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island and Terceira Island in the Azores.”
The Independent has asked BA for confirmation.
The Azores featured on Concorde’s route map in the 1970s, when Santa Maria island was a refuelling stop for Air France’s supersonic jet between Paris and Caracas in Venezuela.
In 2016, The Independent celebrated the arrival of Ryanair in the Azores:
Lucy Thackray15 September 2021 11:26
Holiday prices to Dubai and Malta soar but some Spanish bargains available
Average package holiday prices to Malta are currently 29 per cent higher than before the coronavirus pandemic, while costs to Dubai are 24 per cent.
The figures have been released by TravelSupermarket ahead of the expected changes to UK government travel restrictions.
The holiday price comparison site has looked at how prices in September and October 2021 have changed relative to 2019 – the last full year before the Covid crisis.
Prices to Spain’s Costa de Almeria – which includes resorts such as Aguadulce, Mojacar Pueblo and Roquetas de Mar – have fallen by an average of 38 per cent.
Emma Coulthurst from TravelSupermarket said: “The Spanish Costas are the place to go if you want to get a low-priced end of summer season break.
“You won’t get the strong heat of the summer but you can still get 11 hours of sunshine and highs of 22C.”
Some one-week holidays are said to be available for £150 per person. But all arrivals to the UK must also pay for multiple tests – typically costing £100.
Simon Calder15 September 2021 11:02