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Destinations

Malta Airport Will Welcome Commercial Flights Starting July 1

Malta will begin to receive international visitors with the resumption of commercial flights to its airport beginning July 1, 2020.

Visitors from Germany, Austria, Sicily, Cyprus, Switzerland, Sardegna, Iceland, Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Israel, Latvia, Estonia, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic will be able to travel to the country, and more destinations will be announced as they are approved by the health authorities.

Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Julia Farrugia Portelli noted that the decision to allow visitors will give Malta a summer travel season and was carefully considered with input from health authorities.

“The announcement that Malta International Airport-our primary gateway to the world-is reopening is of fundamental importance to all of us in the tourism sector, and we welcome it with enthusiasm,” said MTA chief executive Johann Buttigieg. “The difficulties we have managed to overcome together in the past weeks are a testament to the resilience of the industry. New challenges lie ahead, but with them come new opportunities. MTA believes that Malta has all it takes to rebuild a profitable industry that provides a livelihood for thousands and is so important to the Maltese economy.”

MTA Chairman Dr. Gavin Gulia said there is cautious optimism for the return of travel.

“Over the past two and a half months, the travel and hospitality industry across the globe has faced an unprecedented challenge,” said Gulia. “Members of the travel trade, from airlines to tour operators and travel agents, as well as hoteliers and restauranteurs, and the many others who earn a living directly or indirectly from tourism, had to endure the impact of an international travel ban. Now that the situation is improving in many countries, and we can finally reopen our borders, we look forward with cautious optimism to the weeks and months ahead. Whilst taking all necessary safety precautions, we can proceed to this important next phase with confidence.”

Carlo Micallef, MTA deputy CEO and chief marketing officer noted the efforts made to keep Malta top of mind for potential visitors.

“Throughout the peak of the pandemic, when international travel was at a standstill, we made sure that the Maltese Islands remained top-of-mind for prospective travelers in our core markets by means of a campaign called ‘Dream Malta Now… Visit Later,’” said Micallef. “With the opening of our airport, we can now start to inform our overseas partners and customers, that the time to simply dream is over, and the actual visiting can begin once again. It will not happen all at once, and not from everywhere from day one. But it is an important first step, one that the industry and the public has been eagerly waiting for.”

Malta has been recognized by many organizations worldwide for its strides in combatting and controlling the virus and is now recognized as one of the safest countries to visit after the coronavirus outbreak.

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Destinations

Tourism Fiji Has a New Message for Visitors, ‘Our Bula Spirit Awaits You’

Domestic travel can resume within Fiji and, with the announcement that it has entered into stage two of reopening, the country is sharing a message of optimism with the world.

Tourism Fiji has announced a new marketing message to visitors: “Our ‘Bula Spirit’ Awaits You.”

“It is an optimistic message that will rebuild consumer confidence and anticipation of a holiday to Fiji. What I like about it the most is that it focuses on what makes Fiji so special—our people,” explains Tourism Fiji’s CEO Matthew Stoeckel. “It’s part of Tourism Fiji’s four stages to market re-entry that the organization is implementing to return the destination to the international markets. In Stage One, it was all about inspiring consumers to dream about a trip to Fiji. Now, as we transition to Stage Two, it is all about giving consumers reasons to choose Fiji for their next vacation and giving them the confidence to start planning for it.”

The marketing campaign will include a range of digital initiatives. A “Bula Series” will air on all social media channels. There will also be a “Happy Hour TV” news segment. Both are designed to bring to life the bula spirit.

The organization has also announced a domestic campaign called “Love Our Locals” that will kickstart tourism between the islands.

“We recognize that consumers are wanting positive news now more than ever,” said Ruth Daly, regional manager North America. “During these challenging times, we’ve seen Fiji’s people really showcase the ‘Bula Spirit’ through their innovative ways of helping each other and their communities, their dedication to remaining resilient and their ability to keep their genuine ‘Bula’ smiles. We are aiming to share all this with consumers through our online channels to give them a taste of what awaits them on their next trip to Fiji.”

Tourism Fiji has also launched a platform for tourism industry partners to allow them to use the new messaging and develop their own promotions.

“We are confident that our new message will resonate with our visitors, as it is genuine and real,” said Stoeckel. “Despite all the challenges being faced as a result of COVID-19, the Bula Spirit is alive and well and will be awaiting travelers on their next visit to Fiji.”

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Transport

Airline Travel Doubles During May

As more and more states begin to open up and drop lockdown restrictions, air travel is starting to see an incremental growth in passengers.

Devastated by the coronavirus pandemic – which at one point in April saw a 94 percent drop in travelers compared to last year – the airline industry got a bounce-back in May.

The Transportation Security Administration says it screened nearly 949,000 passengers over the final weekend of May, according to CNN. That’s almost double the amount of travelers who passed through U.S. airports during the first weekend of the month, when 476,000 passengers went through security.

The enthusiasm over the clear growth is tempered, however, by the stark reality of the effects of the virus. Those 949,000 passengers were counted over three days. The TSA has routinely processed between 2 million and 2.6 million air travelers – per day – during this time of the year. In fact, during the busiest day in May, only 14 percent of travelers flew compared to the equivalent day in 2019.

But, CNN reported that airlines are also adding to their schedules and flying more planes. Industry-wide, about 200 fewer aircraft are sitting idle than in mid-May, when the airlines parked more than 3,200 planes. The tracking service FlightAware says it saw a nearly 7seven percent increase in US flights since early May.

Southwest Airlines, for example, cut some 100 routes from its winter schedule but said it only did so because its slate was already nearly full.

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Holiday

Share your favourite holiday memory of Italy

With the Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa and Uffizi gallery – not to mention Italy’s thousands of bars, cafes, restaurants and gelaterias – open to foreign visitors this week, we’d love to hear about your favourite memory of what is Brits’ third most-popular holiday destination.

It may be a while before we can head off to enjoy la dolce vita, but in the meantime tell us all about your top Italian experience – maybe a family-run trattoria or idyllic agriturismo, a gorgeous beach or an amazing walking trail, a vineyard or an art gallery.

Please use the form below to explain what made this place so special for you, including precise locations and websites where possible, and keeping your tip to around 100 words.

Send your tip by Tuesday 9 June at 10am BST. We’re afraid that in these difficult times, there is no prize on offer for the week’s best entry – though hopefully that will return soon. But in the spirit of solidarity and optimism, we’d still love you to share your memories with fellow readers. That also means you do not need to be a UK resident to submit a tip.

Have a look at our past winners and other tips

Photographs are welcome if they are high-quality (at least 700 pixels wide, please) and you are happy to share them but it is the text we will consider. If you do send photographs please ensure you are the copyright holder.

The best tips will appear on the Guardian Travel website next week.

If you’re having trouble using the form, click here

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Travel

Pound to euro exchange rate: Sterling remains ‘strong’ as Brexit talks hit critical point

The pound had a strong day yesterday against the euro with its “biggest one-day advance” on the common currency in a few months. Currently, there is a positive risk sentiment across investors which will only be improved once successful compromises and negotiations are made in the latest round of Brexit talks. Today, the pound is currently trading at a rate of 1.1230 against the euro according to Bloomberg at the time of writing.

READ MORE

  • Pound to euro exchange rate: GBP remains ‘choppy’ as Brexit talks loom

This is a massive improvement on yesterday’s rate which saw it at 1.1122.

Sterling has now managed to claw its way back against the euro, even clearing that 1.12 handle barrier.

Michael Brown, Currency Expert at Caxton FX, spoke to Express.co.uk to provide exclusive insight into the current exchange rate.

He said: “Sterling put in a strong performance against the common currency on Monday, rising just shy of one percent and chalking up its biggest one-day advance in a couple of months, as the pound continues to benefit from the positive risk mood sweeping across asset classes.

“Today, with the data calendar barren, attention will centre on the latest round of post-Brexit trade talks, as the clock ticks down to the end of June deadline for extending the transition period.”

Trade negotiators from the UK and the EU will meet for a forth round of post-Brexit negotiations today.

However, despite the positive outlook this could have on sterling, Brussels and Britain are not expected to come to an agreement on how to proceed.

It is not expected that Britain will ask the EU for an extension to the post-Brexit transition period.

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But if a trade deal is not put in place, this could have a devastating impact on UK businesses which are already suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK is expecting to have left the EU customs union on December 31, 2020.

George Vessey, a Currency Strategist at Western Union said that “all eyes” remain on Brexit trade talks ahead of the June 30 deadline.

He said: “All eyes are on the final round of Brexit trade negotiations between the UK and EU this week ahead of the June 30 deadline to agree an extension to the transition period.

“If no extension is requested and talks continue to lack progress, a no-trade deal Brexit becomes more likely and the markets may start to price in this scenario, which would weigh heavily on the pound.

“UK PM Boris Johnson is expected to attend the talks himself to try and break the current deadlock as the PM has shown no interest in an extension, sticking to his timeline to exit the EU and its rules by 2021.

“With both sides digging their heels in about the usual contentious issues – fisheries, a level playing field and the future role of the European Court of Justice – it seems unlikely much progress will be made this week.”

But he added that if Brexit negotiations are successful and compromises are made than sterling could rise.

“However, if compromises are made and hopes of a deal do rise, then expect sterling to climb.

“GBP/USD is flirting with the $1.24 handle this morning, propped up largely by USD weakness.

“There is an argument that the pair has broken out of a sideways trend channel with further upside on the cards.

“However, Brexit-related uncertainty poses a big threat to sterling this week.”

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Travel

Covid 19 coronavirus: Kiwi tourists may be allowed into Japan under proposed plan

The Japanese government is considering easing its entry ban on several countries with low Covid-19 infection rates — and New Zealand has reportedly made the cut.

According to a government source, Japan is planning to allow business visitors from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand into its country following border closures prompted by the pandemic, Bangkok Post reports.

Since February, Japan has imposed entry bans on 111 countries and regions, including the United States, most of Asia and all of Europe — which is currently in effect until the end of June.

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Categories
Cruises

Spain holidays: Majorca urged to ban some cruises despite a push to revive tourism

Green campaigners in Majorca are urging the holiday hotspot to temporarily ban large cruise ships from docking in its ports. The news comes in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, despite the fact the region has hopes to reignite tourism as soon as possible.

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The campaigners say that cruise ship passengers will be a serious coronavirus threat which will be difficult to control.

They claim the holiday liners are a “potential danger”, not just to the places they visit but to all the passengers and crew who might well find themselves placed in quarantine on-board as has already happened during the COVID-19 crisis.

The region, which attracts around 10 million tourists annually, has been severely impacted by the lack of foot traffic due to lockdown and border restrictions.

As the State of Emergency in Spain is set to lift on June 21, Majorca officials have begun to unveil plans to welcome back tourists.

However, the activists claim the “pressure to revive tourism” is creating unacceptable duress to allow cruise ships back into Spanish ports.

The call for action is being led by the pressure group, the Platform against Mega-cruises which is made up of representatives from more than 30 other groups, including Ecologists in Action, the Federation of Residents’ Associations of Palma and the Mallorca Preservation Fund.

Its members are calling for the Balearic government to put a block on arrivals until they reveal what coronavirus protocols are being proposed, including a contingency plan for what would happen if someone on board developed the virus.

The platform is particularly concerned about how social distancing could be guaranteed on board, given the number of people on cruise ships and the potential for overcrowding.

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“Our concern increases when we see the existing pressures that are being made to accelerate the economic recovery with the motivation of generating jobs, ignoring the risks of the outbreaks of the coronavirus,” said a spokesman.

The platform says tracing and isolating would be very hard if a passenger developed coronavirus “which is why it represents a potential danger for the cities where it stops, as well as a lack of security for the passengers and crew.”

Representatives of relevant parliamentary groups are being sought out to meet and put pressure on the Port Authority to determine specific anti-coronavirus measures.

The Balearic president recently made moves to have a mandatory 14-day quarantine rule lifted for tourists visiting Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera.

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It comes as the region plans to allow 5,000 German tourists to visit as part of an experiment to test its anti-coronavirus protocols.

According to Spanish media Ultrahora.es, the Prime Minister has agreed and would make an exception for the Balearics in these circumstances.

It is not yet known if this will be applicable to all tourists moving forward, or if it will just cover the test group of holidaymakers.

Though the UK is currently in talks to determine an “air bridge” with Spain, which would allow travellers to fly between countries without the need for a quarantine period, it is not yet known if and when this will come to fruition.

At present arrivals into the UK must adhere to a two-week mandatory quarantine period.

The quarantine rules, which Tory MPs, holiday companies and airlines have condemned, will see anyone arriving from abroad face being subject to 14 days of self-isolation.

Authorities are allowed to check up on arrivals at any point during the two week period.

Anyone caught not following the rules may be faced with a fine of £1,000.

Additional reporting by Rita Sobot

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Categories
Cruises

Amtrak Vacations Offering Limited-Time Great Getaway Sale

Travelers looking to explore the United States after being stuck inside for so long should check out Amtrak Vacations and the company’s new “The Great Getaway Sale.”

As part of the rail company’s limited-time offerings, eligible travelers can save $300 per couple on any three-to-six-night vacation. As for passengers riding the rails for seven-to-nine nights, they will be eligible to save $400 per couple.

Travelers riding with Amtrak Vacations on any 10-plus night rail getaways will be eligible to save $500 per couple. To take advantage of the limited-time deal, customers must book their vacation between June 1 and June 5.

Customers can save by first reaching out to an Amtrak Vacations sales associate or their travel advisor and then choosing their vacation package, which include popular destinations like Glacier National Park, Grand Tetons/Yellowstone and roundtrip journeys showcasing the best America has to offer.

Once passengers book their adventure with onboard sleeping accommodations, they will be able to enjoy the ample savings.

As for assurance during these uncertain times, Amtrak Vacations allows travelers to book journeys up to 24 months in advance and reschedule or cancel their trip up to five days before departure without any change or cancellation fees.

Additional restrictions may apply for any rail vacation that includes a cruise component.

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Categories
Transport

Numerous Cities on List For Potentially Losing Air Travel

The ball is now in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s court when it comes to deciding whether to grant the request of domestic airlines to significantly trim certain cities and airport from their respective service lists.

And, ironically, it comes at a time when the majority of the country is starting to reopen for business in the wake of the effects from the coronavirus pandemic.

The government comment period on the matter ended on Thursday, leaving the matter to a decision by the DOT, which has not said when it will issue a ruling according to USA Today.

Airlines are looking to drop service to conserve some desperately needed cash, with demand for air travel having dropped to unprecedented lows. At one point, screenings by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were off 94 percent compared to a similar date last year. But as a condition of accepting federal grants and loans as part of the CARES Act stimulus package, U.S. carriers needed to maintain the same amount of service it offered prior to the coronavirus impact as well as seek permission from the DOT to drop routes.

But the cuts could be devastating to small airports.

According to USA Today, Anthony Dudas, the airport director in Williston, North Dakota, said that the town is a gateway to the rich Bakken oil fields. Before the pandemic, it had five daily flights from United and Delta. Now, those flights have been reduced to one a day for each of the two airlines. If Delta is granted permission to suspend service, the community will be down even further – serving a $275 million airport that opened last year.

“While we understand the need for air carriers to have flexibility in adjusting schedules and services, we believe the impact from significantly reducing air service to western North Dakota will be enormous,” Dudas wrote.

Here is the list of cities that could be dropped.

ALASKA AIRLINES

Charleston, South Carolina

Columbus, Ohio

El Paso, Texas

New Orleans

San Antonio, Texas

ALLEGIANT AIR

New Orleans

Ogdensburg, New York

Palm Springs, California

San Antonio

Springfield, Illinois

Tucson, Arizona

AMERICAN AIRLINES

Aspen, Colorado

Eagle, Colorado

Montrose/Delta, Colorado

Worcester, Massachusetts

CAPE AIR

Portland, Maine

Corvus Airlines

Goodnews Bay, Alaska

Kodiak, Alaska

Napakiak, Alaska

Napaskiak, Alaska

Platinum, Alaska

DELTA AIR LINES

Aspen, Colorado

Bangor, Maine

Erie, Pennsylvania

Flint, Michigan

Fort Smith, Arkansas

Lincoln, Nebraska

New Bern/Morehead/Beaufort, North Carolina

Peoria, Illinois

Santa Barbara, California

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Williston, North Dakota

ELITE AIRWAYS

Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida

FRONTIER AIRLINES

Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina

Mobile, Alabama

Palm Springs

Portland, Maine

Tyler, Texas

JETBLUE AIRWAYS

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Palm Springs

Sacramento, California

Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida

Worcester, Massachusetts

Seaborne Virgin Islands

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Christiansted, Virgin Islands

Culebra, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Vieques, Puerto Rico

SILVER AIRWAYS

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Huntsville, Alabama

Key West, Florida

Tallahassee, Florida

Tampa, Florida

SPIRIT AIRLINES

Asheville, North Carolina

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Christiansted, Virgin Islands

Greensboro/High Point, North Carolina

Plattsburgh, New York

SUN AIR EXPRESS

Nashville, Tennessee

SUN COUNTRY AIRLINES

Madison, Wisconsin

Philadelphia

Portland, Oregon

Sacramento

St. Louis, Missouri

UNITED AIR LINES

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton, Pennsylvania

Charlotte Amalie

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Fairbanks, Alaska

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Ithaca/Cortland, New York

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Key West, Florida

Lansing, Michigan

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Rochester, Minnesota

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Categories
Transport

Pakistan jet grazed runway at 327kph without landing gear

As Flight 8303 from Lahore approached Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport last Friday afternoon, air-traffic controllers were concerned that it wasn’t descending on the proper path

A deadly plane crash in Pakistan is prompting questions about how the crew could touch down without landing gear when their sophisticated jetliner was bristling with equipment to prevent pilots from doing just that.

After an abrupt descent that had unnerved air-traffic controllers, the pilots of the Pakistan International Airlines jet on Friday briefly put the aircraft on the runway without the landing gear, grinding along on its two engines at a speed of more than 327 kilometres (203) miles) per hour, according to preliminary data.

The pilots aborted the landing attempt, climbing back into the sky, but reported shortly afterward they’d lost power. The Airbus A320 apparently glided into a neighbourhood as pilots were attempting to return to the same runway, killing 97 of 99 people aboard.

“It is unbelievable to me that an airline crew on a jet like an Airbus, with all the warning systems, would attempt to land the plane without the gear extended,” said John Cox, an aviation safety consultant who formerly flew the A320 as a US airline pilot.

In addition to checklists designed to make sure pilots don’t attempt to touch down without the landing gear, the jetliner has multiple warning systems designed to alert crews if they somehow forget or the gear aren’t working.

“The airplane is not happy that you’re this close to the ground without the gear extended,” said Cox, who is president of consulting company Safety Operating Systems.

It’s not yet clear why the two jet engines quit after functioning well enough for about two minutes to lift them about 3,000 feet (915 metres) above the runway. Engines have become so reliable that losing two at the same time is almost always because of some common factor, such as damage from hitting a runway or a problem with the fuel supply.

Regardless, the bizarre landing attempt – which was carried out without any indication from the crew that they’d had an emergency during their initial descent – either triggered the accident or was a catalyst that worsened the situation, according to Cox and others who have studied crashes.

A Pakistan International spokesman declined to comment on “incomplete information.” An Airbus spokesman referred queries to Pakistani authorities. Civil aviation spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar didn’t respond to a call on his mobile phone.

As Flight 8303 from Lahore approached Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport last Friday afternoon, air-traffic controllers were concerned that it wasn’t descending on the proper path, according to a report cited by Sky News. A controller cautioned the pilots that they were “high” and urged them to adjust, according to the leaked preliminary report.

Turn back

“We are comfortable. We can make it,” the pilot can be heard telling the controller, according to a recording of Karachi’s air-traffic radio posted on the LiveATC.net website.

Twice as the plane neared the runway, a controller told pilots to turn and break off their approach, according to the report. Again, the pilot declined, responding on the radio he was “comfortable” and was prepared to land on runway 25-Left.

At no point did the pilots say they had a problem with their landing gear or any other type of emergency, according to the radio calls.

Approaching a runway with such a rapid descent, which often leads to higher-than-recommended speeds, is a harbinger of danger, according to decades of warnings from investigative agencies such as the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the nonprofit Flight Safety Foundation.

After the controllers finally cleared the plane to land — despite their earlier warnings — the pilot replied, “Roger.” In the background, the sound of a cockpit warning chime can be heard.

Too much energy

The jetliner was well above the normal speed as it neared the runway, said Jeffrey Guzzetti, the former chief accident investigator for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. It was traveling at roughly 250 miles an hour at about 1,000 feet above the ground, according to the tracking website, Flightradar24.

That’s more than 50 miles per hour faster than is typical for jets like the A320, Guzzetti said.

“They have too much energy for a normal landing,” he said.

It not only increases the chances of skidding off the runway, but puts additional pressure on the pilots to slow the big jet and can lead to other things going wrong.

Flightradar24’s data suggests that the jet was traveling at 375 kilometers (233 miles) per hour when it reached the runway and slowed to about 327 kilometers per hour as it lifted off. The data hasn’t been validated by investigators.

While it’s possible that in the chaos and confusion they might have have forgotten about the landing gear, it’s still puzzling, according to Guzzetti and Cox.

Computer system

The A320’s on-board computer system issues both a warning sound and illuminates a light to draw attention to a text message if the gear isn’t out as the plane nears the ground.

A separate safety system designed to prevent aircraft from inadvertently striking the ground also senses when the gear isn’t deployed before landing. Its recorded voice repeatedly says “Too low, gear” if the problem continues.

Before-landing check lists also require crews to verify that the plane’s instruments show the gear is locked into place.

“It’s very unusual in modern transport category aircraft to have a no-gear landing, just because the checklist and the warnings that go off,” Guzzetti said.

At about 2:34 p.m., the plane slammed onto the runway. Its engines left a series of black smudge marks, starting at 4,500 feet from the start of the landing strip, according to video of the runway broadcast by news outlets. It shows three separate patches, as if the plane skipped into the air between impacts.

“Going around,” a pilot on the jet told controllers, the term for aborting a landing and taking off again.

The plane climbed about 3,000 feet, but couldn’t hold its altitude, according to the radio transmissions and flight data.

“Sir, we have lost engines,” a pilot said. Then, 30 seconds later, he said, “Mayday. Mayday. Mayday.”

Seconds later, the plane hit the ground.

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