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Travel

Two women caught in ‘dirty’ position on aeroplane leaving people grossed out

Passengers on an aeroplane were left shocked after two women were caught in an unusual position in their seats.

While many of us recognise that aeroplanes can be uncomfortable we try to remain considerate of fellow flyers.

Not these women though.

The two women caused such a commotion that another passenger whacked out their phone to capture a photo of the shocking moment in the sky.

The snap was shared on the popular Instagram account Passenger Shaming where it now has over 500 comments and eight thousand likes.

The image showed two women in the economy cabin of the commercial aeroplane.

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Rows of narrow seats can be seen while the two women are sat mid-way along the length of the plane.

The women were clearly eager to stretch their legs on the flight and so propped them on the seats in front of them.

Their bare feet could be seen sticking up above the seats in front where a man sat with a red cap and headphones on.

Social media viewers were horrified that the women had chosen to lean their naked feet on the seats in front.

One disgusted person said: “Definitely airlines have to apply a dress code and what is not allowed rules while in a flight.

“It’s incredible how gross people can be.”

The offenders remain anonymous thus far.

Their faces were obscured behind the seats and they have yet to be “named and shamed”.

One irritated person wrote: “Maybe if their faces start getting shown, this behaviour will cease.”

Another called the pair “dirty people”.

A third called the women “nasty”.

Other’s were left confused as to how the strange position could be beneficial.

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One skeptic wrote: “How is this even comfortable?

“I don’t understand!”

Another jokester said: “Damn you Yoga! Nobody was doing this when I was a kid.”

While another mulled over the physics and said: “Those seats are so tiny and tight. I cannot figure out how they even manage to do this.”

Neither can we!

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Travel

Antarctica: The women setting new records

Women are pushing the boundaries on the great white wilderness that is Antarctica

Make no bones about it, Antarctica is a continent that kills. “It’s a place that wants you dead,” said polar explorer Robert Swan, who walked Captain Scott’s route to the South Pole in 1985. “Scott found that out 100 years ago.”

The hazards are numerous: silent, awaiting crevasses, dense katabatic winds and ferocious storms, but more than anything it’s the constant, inescapable, wearing cold that is the danger. Even in the summer months, temperatures hover around -30C. Make a single mistake and it punishes you.

In this harshest of environments, four women have just skied solo to the South Pole – more female soloists than in any year in the history of Antarctic travel. Three British women, Wendy Searle, Mollie Hughes and Jenny Wordsworth, skied 1130km from Hercules Inlet on the edge of the Antarctic continent to the South Pole. German Anja Blacha opted for a route some 225km longer, from Berkner Island on the Ronne Ice Shelf.

‘No person who has not spent a period of their life in those ‘stark and sullen solitudes that sentinel the Pole’ will understand fully what trees, flowers, sun-flecked turf and running streams mean to the soul.’ Shackleton. 42 days, 16 hours, 23 minutes. Solo, unsupported and unassisted. 7th woman to complete Hercules Inlet to South Pole. First soloist this season.

A post shared by Wendy Searle (@betweensnowandsky) on

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Holiday

Short stay: Kilkea Castle Estate & Golf Club, Kildare, Ireland – A Luxury Travel Blog

Located just an hour’s drive from Dublin, Kilkea Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. Originally built in 1180 by Hugh de Lacy, the Earl of Ulster and chief governor of Ireland, for Sir Walter de Riddlesford, a Norman knight, the castle was the seat of the Fitzgeralds, the Earls of Kildare, for almost 800 years.

Since falling out of the Fitzgerald ownership in 1960, Kilkea Castle experienced a number of different owners before being purchased in 2013 by Jay and Christy Cashman – an American businessman and his Hollywood actress wife – who then went about restoring the castle to its former glory, opening it as a luxury hotel in 2017, following a $30 million restoration and refurbishment. Together with its golf course, rose garden and courtyard, the resort covers over 200 acres through which the River Greese flows.

The following video gives a nice overview of what to expect before stepping inside…

The welcome

I was in Dublin with work prior to our stay but the hotel kindly offered to collect us from the city for the one-hour transfer to the castle which meant for an effortless arrival. We were made to feel very welcome and given a personal tour of the castle once we had settled in which provided us with many insights into the castle’s past.

Its history is a fascinating one, with stories ranging from a pet monkey saving the first Earl from a fire when he was a baby (which accounts for a monkey featuring on the family crest), to the 11th Earl of Kildare, who was known as the ‘Wizard Earl’ due to his interest in alchemy, and who is believed to visit the castle on horseback on the seventh day of the seventh month of every seventh year.

We were also shown some interesting features in the brickwork of the building, including a monkey’s tail and the ‘Evil Eye’. The latter is a rather bizarre medieval carving built into the quoin of the guard room close to the gatehouse, that depicts a man embracing a semi-human beast while another beast appears to be having sexual intercourse with him; it was designed to ‘ward off’ unwelcome visitors, blighting them by its evil influence. Thankfully our welcome was a much more orthodox one!

The room

The castle is home to eleven uniquely-designed bedrooms. Additional accommomdation can be found in bright and airy carriage rooms in the courtyard or in self-catering lodges overlooking the golf course and just a stone’s throw from the refurbished clubhouse.

We were fortunate enough to stay in the Fitzgerald Suite at the very top of the castle in the Round Tower which enjoys views all around the estate.

The décor is very in keeping with the grandeur of a castle, with heavy curtain fabrics and bold-patterned wallpaper. A separate lounge area greets you as you enter the suite, with its own fireplace, chaise longues, gilt-edged mirror and chandelier.

The spacious bedroom is decorated with dark mahagony furniture that complements the rich, toned fabrics of the bed and chair. This room looks out over the 18th green.

The bathroom

The bathroom is a circular room located inside one of the castle’s turrets. In it is a free-standing bath and a separate shower inset into the thick tower wall.

Fluffy gowns are provided and Elemis is the toiletry brand of choice at Kilkea Castle, used also in the hotel’s spa.

The bathroom’s arrowslit window looks out over a beautifully-maintained Italianate garden.

The facilities

Kilkea Castle offers a number of dining venues, from fine dining to less formal options elsewhere. We loved the portcullis castle-style and informality of The Keep bar but The Bistro also offers an informal all-day dining experience for golfers or guests, with a choice of light bites and wholesome main courses.

Restaurant 1180 is the formal dining area within the castle, led by David McKane, former Head Chef at Adare Manor. It is yet to earn its first Michelin star but that is surely just a matter of time.

We had the signature tasting menu which began with a chicken and truffle terrine with a truffle aioli and pickled mushrooms. Often the flavour of truffles can be a little overpowering but this was delicately done.

A crab ravioli followed, set on a bed of spinach and with a delightful shellfish bisque.

Next up was seabass with a wondefully crisp skin, served with fennel and a chive braisage sauce.

Our main course was Dexter beef – cooked very pink, just how I like it – with artichoke, shallot, king oyster mushroom and a rich jus. Dexter is a rare breed with its origins in Tipperary, to the south-west of Kilkea. It was very tender yet full of flavour.

A blood orange with vodka and granita followed as a palette cleanser before a lemon meringue dessert. I wouldn’t normally regard myself as a dessert person but this was definitely worth it – a sort of deconstructed lemon meringue pie with isolated tastes of meringue, lemon curd, lemon sorbet and biscuit crumbs that worked really well together.

The 1180 Restaurant is also used for breakfast for guests staying in the Castle Bedrooms.

There is a buffet selection consisting of cereals, fruit, pastries and more, set among the book shelves of the dining room, but also a breakfast menu for any cooked orders.

I can heartily recommend the poached eggs and avocado on a brioche muffin!

Additional facilities at Kilkea Castle include an 18-hole, 6,700-yard Championship golf course that cleverly uses the River Greese as a natural hazard on almost every hole. Two lakes further add to the challenge, plus there’s a practice range, putting green, golf shop and clubhouse.

The hotel also has its own spa where we both enjoyed a very relaxing massage. Guests of the spa may use the hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room ahead of their treatments. Available treatments at the spa include facials, hot stone massages, salt scrubs, detox wraps and more.

Location

In the immediate vicinity of the castle, guests can enjoy use of the golf course or take a leisurely walk of the adjoining Mullaghreelan Wood. Equestrian excursions can also be enjoyed as part of an all-inclusive stay at Kilkea Castle. Two miles away is the Moone High Cross Inn, an Irish pub famous for its its craic and live music that is reputed to be Clint Eastwood’s favourite pub in the whole of Ireland.

They even have a bar named after him. Other distinguished visitors to the pub have included Bono, Sandra Bullock, Johnny Depp and former Republic of Ireland footballer and manager, Mick McCarthy. Photographs of some of these famous guests adorn the walls.

Kilkea enjoys a number of other fascinating connections; for instance, Ernest Shackleton was born to a Quaker family in the area. It’s an area with some 5,000 years of history. Places to explore nearby include Burtown House & Gardens, Mondello Park, the Irish National Stud and Gardens, The Curragh Racecourse, Punchestown Racecourse and Castletown House & Gardens.

Other nice touches

We were made to feel very welcome throughout our stay. Our hosts very kindly gifted us some Kilkea Castle branded bobble hats which we were able to put to immediate use as there was quite a cold wind in the air, and macarons and chocolate brownies were delivered to our room when we went for a stroll one afternoon.

Cost

Rates start from €115 per night for Carriage Rooms. Castle Bedrooms start from closer to €340 per night, with the Fitzgerald Suite starting from €1,490 per night.

The best bit

Why… staying in a castle, of course! There’s a certain charm about staying in such a grand building with such a fascinating history.

The final verdict

The other wonderful thing about Kilkea Castle is that the new owners are giving this historic building all the love and attention that it truly deserves; no expense is being spared and no corners are being cut, in order to ensure it returns to its former glory. A fitting restoration is being put ahead of profits which, in the long term, I feel is sure to bring Kilkea Castle further deserved success.

Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Kilkea Castle.

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Holiday

UK holidays: South Lodge Hotel in West Sussex is perfect for gourmands and spa-lovers

I feel absolutely marvellous. Utterly happy. Well, fat and happy if truth be told, looking down at my distended stomach. I’ve just finished what is undeniably the best meal I’ve had all month. I’m at South Lodge Hotel in West Sussex for the start of a relaxing weekend getaway with a close friend – and this is an excellent start. A luxury five-star hotel, South Lodge boasts a state-of-the-art spa, three restaurants, 93 acres of grounds with views onto the South Downs and an array of well-appointed rooms. It’s also the perfect countryside break thanks to its proximity to London (the nearest station of Horsham is under an hour from central London).

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So, the reason behind my current fat and happy state? I am trying out lunch in South Lodge’s stylish and friendly Mediterranean-inspired Botanica restaurant – and I cannot recommend it enough.

First, we tuck into appetisers of herby, crunchy marinated olives and pillowy rosemary and olive focaccia with lashings of balsamic and olive oil – all accompanied by a bitter orange, strawberry and ginger spritz which is perfectly refreshing and tangy.

For mains, I opt for a deliciously zesty artichoke and truffle tortellini which is firm yet creamy and paired with Twineham Grange (a vegetarian hard cheese akin to Parmesan and a feature across the menu), artichoke crisps and fresh rocket.

A glass of Sussex sparkling English wine is the perfect partner, and I choose the Ridgeview Fitzrovia rosé with notes of raspberry, citrus and honey. Sublime. The chicken Caesar salad comes with rave reviews, too.

Feasting not yet complete, I finish lunch with a rich, plant-based sticky toffee pudding complete with caramelised walnuts and salted caramel gelato. Any reservations about the vegan nature of the dessert is soon swept aside as I lap up every last tasty morsel. My friend enjoys the chocolate tart with cold brew gelato and spice butterscotch – and is still reminiscing about its greatness a day later.

The food is not the only thing to write home about at Botanica. It’s located in the spa building and you’re more than welcome to dine in your spa robe and slippers – and what could be more lazy weekend than that?

There’s also a gorgeous view of the rolling Sussex hills out of the floor to ceiling window while in warmer weather there’s a terrace for lunches and drinks al fresco.

Next up is the spa itself. I realise as I take my replete and content body downstairs that perhaps post-lunch is not the ideal time to be parading around in a bikini, but there we are. Luckily, there are various pools in which to submerge myself.

Excitingly, South Lodge offers not only an indoor pool but also an outdoor vitality hydrotherapy pool and wild swimming pool.

The latter – a sort of glorified (yet clean-looking) pond – is particularly unusual. It visibly sparks the curiosity of many guests who tentatively pop a toe into its cold waters only to retreat shivering. The 18m-long pool’s surrounding decking is bristling with a vast selection of sun loungers which strikes me as optimistic for the UK but the place likely really comes into its own in the summer months.

I eschew the chilly deeps in favour of the hydrotherapy pool from which steam radiates in billowy clouds, adding a rather Icelandic atmosphere to the location.

From here one can enjoy a fetching view of both the countryside and the hotel itself. Another benefit of this pool is the lack of children for those hoping for some peace and quiet. Inside, the 22m x10m indoor infinity pool attracts a number of little ones during the day.

South Lodge spa also boasts an infused sauna, a marble-lined salt steam room and a jasmine herbal steam room.

These offer plenty of tranquillity and I leave them feeling purified and cleansed, if not rather sweaty.

For those looking to get a real sweat on during their stay, there is a 200 sq m gym with state-of-the-art equipment, a spin studio and a plethora of fitness classes.

I, however, plump for a spa treatment instead. The elegant spa provides a wide range of body, face, nail and hair treatments in their treatment rooms, mudroom and Ridgeview Beauty Bar. I opt for a hands-on full-body massage. I request firm pressure, and good lord does my masseuse deliver.

Her touch seems to oscillate between sadistic and sensual – but perhaps that’s the result of the three drinks at lunch. It’s certainly hugely relaxing, though, and at one point I confess I’m so soothed I break wind. Mortifying.

Afterwards, I am led to the aftercare room which features colourful glowing pods to sit in, which have the comical effect of appearing to transform their occupants into alien babies regenerating as they loll around, fully unwound from their treatments.

I am served a herbal tea and overhear one woman who’s just enjoyed the pregnancy massage saying it’s the most relaxed she’s felt in the whole pregnancy, which is really quite something.

The indulgent experience continues even in the changing rooms where the fig and vanilla shampoo and conditioner leave my hair smelling fabulous while Dyson hairdryers and straighteners can help guests return to their best. The interior design here is delightful, too.

The space is home to chic, earthy tones with highlights of gold and the lockers are all named after fruits, herbs and spices. Even the copper-coloured fire extinguishers manage to look fancy!

Elsewhere, the hotel sticks to the old-fashioned country house ambience. The Billiards Bar is wood-panelled with decorative carved fireplaces and a peacock-adorned frieze, lending an aristocratic yet homely feel to the place. Murano glass chandeliers lend the only modern twist.

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For seasonal, traditional dining head to the two AA Rosette winning Camellia restaurant. Breakfast is served here. Expect an array of pastries and cereals, a cooked English breakfast buffet plus an à la carte menu.

Top tip – get there well before the end to avoid items running out. An unlikely highlight for me was the selection of delectable handmade jams. Be sure to try the rhubarb and ginger concoction as well as apricot and amaretto.

As for dinner, we eat in The Pass which is led by head chef Tom Kemble and only opened last year. The restaurant serves up the chef’s table experience and diners are afforded a view right through into the kitchen where the magic happens.

My friend and I indulge in the six-course tasting menu. This starts with a pumpkin velouté before moving onto a wonderfully creamy and tasty Maitake mushroom risotto with 36 month aged parmesan.

Next up is Cornish Cod with green shoots of monk’s beard and seaweed beurre blanc (caviar can also be added for a supplement). The cod is soft and succulent, fresh, lemony and melt-in-the-mouth beautiful.

Another strong contender for the winner of the dinner is the South Downs venison. This is served with chestnut and juniper purée, Cévennes onion and sauce Bordelaise.

The meat is juicy and tender with a sweet smokiness and is oh-so-easy to eat. It paired perfectly with a recommended glass of red.

While an optional cheese course is available for a supplement, we move onto desserts – there’s a Pear William sorbet with buttermilk panna cotta and an ‘open’ mille-feuille. The six-course menu will set you back £70 but it’s top quality – and there’s an eight-course version for those even bigger appetites.

I, however, am thoroughly satiated and roll back to my spacious accommodation. Every room is individually styled and designed so that no two are the same at South Lodge.

My junior suite features a large living area which opens up onto the lawns in front of the property through a French window which is lovely to wake up to in the morning and no doubt charming in warmer seasons in the evening.

The bathroom – which comes with his ’n her sinks – has a vast walk-in shower and an in-built “acquatelevision” in front of the bath for those who bathing in the spa did not quite satisfy (unimaginable if you ask me).

Other perks of the rooms are the night lights to guide one’s way to the loo in the night and also the in-room tablet from which you can make various requests and find information. I particularly like the option to ask for a turn-down service – five-star assistance but without having to speak to anyone, just how modern travellers like it.

And so, thoroughly pampered and well-fed I crawl into my very comfortable bed to sleep. Still fat, still very happy.

TRAVEL FACTS

Rooms at South Lodge Hotel in Lower Beeding near Horsham start from £265 on a bed and breakfast basis.

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Destinations

Egypt’s Oldest Pyramid Has Finally Reopened to the Public

Egypt’s so-called “Step Pyramid” was finally reopened to the public during an official ceremony in Egypt’s Saqqara necropolis on March 5, 2020, following fourteen years of restoration work performed at a cost of around USD $6,700,000.

It is properly called the Djoser Pyramid and, being approximately 4,700 years old, it’s the world’s oldest pyramid and is also credited with being the first monumental stone building in history. It stands 207 feet tall, constructed solely of stone materials and consisting of six stacked outer terraces, situated outside the royal capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to the south of modern-day Cairo.

According to state news outlet Al-Ahram, attendees at the grand opening included Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly; Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Khaled El-Enany; and Assem El-Gazar, the minister of housing.

The Step Pyramid was commissioned by king Djoser, the second king of ancient Egypt’s third ruling dynasty, who lived somewhere within the years 2,650- 2,575 BCE. Djoser’s chief minister, Imhotep—also said to have been a sage, vizier and astrologer—is credited as having been the pyramid’s chief architect.

El-Anany explained at the press event that the lengthy restoration process had been carried out by skilled and careful Egyptian conservators and that the work had been aimed at consolidating the pyramid and removing damages.

On the exterior, accumulated dust, sand and mineral debris containing damaging salts were cleaned from the surfaces, stones that had loosened were restored and gaps in the façade were patched using the same archaeological materials that were used in its construction.

The walls of interior spaces and deteriorated underground passages were treated using careful restoration methods and reinforced materials. The burial chamber and its corridors were restored, removing large quantities of rubble and revealing a massive sarcophagus made from 32 granite blocks estimated to weigh around 176 tons.

To support continued tourism to the monument, walking paths and access ramps were installed, along with a new lighting system and information placards for the edification of visitors.

CNN reported that renovations of the Djoser Pyramid began back in 2006, but were interrupted from 2011 through 2012 due to Egypt’s popular uprising and the overthrow of President Hosni Mubark, before efforts resumed again in 2013.

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Destinations

Truck Demolishes One of Easter Island’s Sacred Moai Statues

A privately-owned pickup truck has destroyed one of Easter Island’s world-famous archeological treasures, the imposing and mysterious Moai statues. The vehicle, reportedly belonging to a Chilean man, slammed into the ancient stone monument on the morning of March 1, 2020, reported Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio.

Local authorities reportedly believe the collision to have been the result of a brake failure that sent the truck sliding downhill and into the Moai and the platform upon which it stood. No one was inside the truck when it crashed.

Although the destruction is assumed to have proceeded from an accident, the truck’s owner was promptly arrested and charged with damaging a national monument.

In a statement to CNN, Camilo Rapu, president of the Mau Henua community—which is responsible for the care and preservation of the island’s archaeological and historical sites, including the Moai—said, “The damage is incalculable.”

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed island’s mayor, Pedro Pablo Petero Edmunds Paoa, is reportedly calling for stronger regulations to prevent vehicles from operating in such close proximity to any of the nearly 1000 carved Moai monoliths on the island.

Rapu said that he plans to make an urgent appeal, “to lawmakers and authorities in order to review the legal framework that protects the historical and cultural heritage of native peoples. Let’s not wait for more damage to occur…”

The Moai are not only important historically and archaeologically, but also hold spiritual value for the Rapa Nui, Easter Island’s original inhabitants. “The Moai are sacred structures of religious value for the Rapa Nui people,” Rapu declared. “Furthermore, [the damage of the Moai] is an offense to a culture that has lived many years struggling to recover its heritage and archaeology.”

Carved between the 13th and 16th centuries out of basalt rock from an extinct volcano, the purpose of the Moai largely remains a mystery, although it’s supposed that they represent ancestral figures. The Polynesian island, a Chilean territory, is one of the world’s most remote inhabited places, being over 2,000 miles away from mainland Chile, and continues to fascinate archeologists and historians.

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Travel

The Critical Points: Why I’m not slowing down my travel during coronavirus



MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.

Each week in his column “The Critical Points,” TPG Loyalty and Engagement Editor Richard Kerr presents his opinion on a loyalty program, card product or recent news that he believes is overlooked, unsung or the result of groupthink taking mass opinion in a direction with which he doesn’t agree. His goal is not necessarily to convince you to agree with his position but rather to induce critical thought for each of the topics and positions he covers.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of Microsoft News or Microsoft. MSN Travel Voices features first-person essays and stories from diverse points of view. Click here to see more Voices content from MSN Lifestyle, Health and Travel. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical expert and have no medical training. What follows (as I clearly state in my column introduction each week) is not my attempt to convince you that my view on coronavirus is right. Instead, it’s my opinion on the outbreak and an attempt to engage critical and independent thought about the current situation. You should come to your own educated conclusion and base your travel actions on that conclusion.

In mid-February, the news cycle and social media began a blitz of coverage related to a novel coronavirus (the name given to a family of viruses). The outbreak of COVID-19 — which appears to have originated in Wuhan, China — has led to cruise ship quarantines, cancelled or postponed events and reductions in flights from carriers like JetBlue and United. It has also created a laundry list of questions for the traveling public.

Over the last couple of decades, there have been several new diseases that have presented as a potential pandemic. As a result, I now have a natural, built-in skepticism when cable news channels begin displaying maps of infected areas with doomsday-like headlines that play to viewers’ fears.

Here are a list of the incidents where this has occurred in just the 20th century:

  • 2002 – West Nile Virus
  • 2003 – SARS
  • 2005 – Avian Flu
  • 2009 – Swine Flu
  • 2014 – Ebola
  • 2016 – Zika

In each of these cases, the initial hysteria, irrational behaviors and speculation died down as the true threat (or lack thereof) came to light.

That said, there were positives of such behavior. Each outbreak reminded the population, governments and private agencies of the importance of being able to respond to new disease outbreaks, and each provided public education and awareness on how quickly an actual pandemic could occur. Ultimately, none of the above diseases reached true pandemic proportions.

Doing my homework

When I began seeing this new coronavirus as the next potential disease to cause a pandemic, I dug for what research I could find from sources I deemed to be the best educated, least biased and most likely to present an accurate assessment of the seriousness of COVID-19 (‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ ‘D’ for disease and the ’19’ for 2019). Here are my own conclusions — again, not medical conclusions — based on my reading and questions to trained medical professionals:

Based on these conclusions, I see no reason to slow down or limit travel at this point in time, as my risk for COVID-19 is roughly equivalent to my risk for the common flu.

In fact, continuing to travel may counteract one of the most concerning aspects of COVID-19 (to me): the effects the virus is having on the travel industry and the global economy.

Why the public overreacts

In my opinion, the behavior I see in the general public is an overreaction and unnecessary at this point given the information we have. That said, I can understand why the public has taken such actions. Fear of the unknown is part of our DNA, and the age of social media makes everything — even absurdly bad recommendations — much easier to share. Then, of course, there’s the 24/7 news cycle that repeats warnings over and over again.

Earlier this week, Travelbloggerbuzz (one of my biggest fans) linked to an article describing the three stages of risk that does an excellent job of describing the effects of uncertainty amidst danger:

“Risk has three parts: The odds you will get hit, the average consequences of getting hit, and the tail-end consequences of getting hit. How people respond to risk is heavily influenced by the tail-end consequences of getting hit, even if it’s the least probable outcome.”

The majority of the public — because we aren’t epidemiologists — doesn’t understand COVID-19 from a factual, medical standpoint. This means a lot of uncertainty, with one notable exception: we know the virus has the potential for death (the tail-end consequence). Despite that end result being incredibly unlikely for the vast majority of us, we’re gripped by the fear of it. We rationalize behavior like buying hygiene and survival products and preemptively canceling travel plans due to this anxiety, with Groupthink guiding our response to this perceived risk of the tail-end consequence.

Bottom line

Is there an upside to the last few weeks? I actually believe that several exist. Millions more of us are washing our hands (correctly) now than a few weeks ago. Governments have been tested and will hopefully learn lessons on how to better respond in the future to biological threats. Airplanes and mass transit that may have gone months or even years without thorough disinfecting are now being cleaned.

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the death toll, and unfortunately, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to feeling the full effects of the coronavirus from an economic perspective. I still personally perceive us as being in the knee-jerk-reaction stage to the virus, but it’ll take time to measure the full global impact of the outbreak.

I’ve made the personal decision that COVID-19 won’t slow my travels due to my perceived risk of being infected and the consequences if I am infected. I will follow the same protocols I already do for avoiding the common flu, and if I begin to show symptoms, I’ll follow the same protocol as if I have the flu.

Let’s all spend some time away from social media and sources with an incentive to spread fear in order to drive clicks or viewership. Complete your own research and establish your individual risk tolerance. Then enact behaviors based on those educated conclusions. If we make a concerted effort, I believe we can collectively move in the direction of a more even-keeled public and industry response to COVID-19.

WATCH: Should coronavirus fears keep you from traveling? (Provided by TODAY)


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Here's how coronavirus could become a pandemic—and why it matters


In the two months since the novel coronavirus was announced in China, it has expanded across the globe. Outbreaks have been reported in more than 50 countries with more than 85,000 confirmed cases and 2,900 deaths worldwide. Stock markets posted their biggest tumble since the 2008 recession this week as case counts of the virus, which causes the disease named COVID-19, rose sharply in places like Italy, Iran, and South Korea. Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it’s just a matter of time before the virus thrives in America as well.

a group of people wearing costumes: A woman wearing a mask to prevent contracting the coronavirus reacts as employees from a disinfection service company sanitize a traditional market in Seoul, South Korea, February 26, 2020.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a press briefing on Wednesday. On Saturday, Washington state announced the first U.S. death due to the novel coronavirus.

Given this globalized spread, the term “pandemic” is beginning to circulate among officials and the news media.

But public health authorities are stopping just short of officially labeling this emergency as a pandemic: In her remarks, Messonnier noted that the world is moving closer to meeting the criteria for a pandemic. Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said this week that we’re on the precipice of a pandemic.

So what exactly is a pandemic—and what happens when a major public health agency, like the WHO, declares one? While calling this global health crisis a pandemic might not change the facts on the ground, it can stoke public fears and propel a shift in strategy toward mitigating harm.

What is a pandemic?

Global health crises tend to grow in phases. This chain of events starts with an “outbreak”—a sudden rise in confirmed cases of an disease that’s contained to a small geographic region like Wuhan. If the disease spreads just beyond that community—like how the novel coronavirus spread across China—then it becomes an epidemic.

Pandemics, according to their classical definition, are epidemics that cross international boundaries and affect a large number of people worldwide.

“It’s all about geography,” says Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and the director of operations with the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response. “It’s not about severity, it’s not about high versus low case counts. It’s…do we see spread across the globe?”

Not every widespread epidemic is considered a pandemic. Seasonal influenza, for example, checks those boxes—but its cyclic nature is what differentiates it from pandemic influenza, which can spread anywhere across both hemispheres regardless of the weather. (Will warming spring temperatures slow the coronavirus outbreak?)

A pandemic declaration also takes into account who is infected and where. If a person catches the coronavirus in China and travels back to their home country, they do not count toward the tally that ultimately decides a pandemic declaration—and neither does anyone they infect. Sauer says these constraints arose out of the lessons learned during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, when the ease of global travel made it seem like the disease was spreading faster and more widely than it was. (Here’s how coronavirus spikes outside China show that travel bans aren’t working.)

Instead, public health authorities are looking for local transmission of COVID-19. That’s the stage where the virus begins spreading outside of China among people who have not recently traveled to the Asian nation. Early in an epidemic, most of those cases can be traced to travelers from the outbreak’s original site, in this case China. But as local transmission progresses, that contact tracing breaks down. At this turning point, the coronavirus can spread unnoticed, making it extremely difficult to control.

Some public health experts argue that the novel coronavirus has already achieved pandemic status when measured against these definitions: Cases have been confirmed on six continents, including 2,300 in South Korea and 650 in Italy. In many of the countries, outbreaks are being sustained locally, with the latest examples simmering in California, Oregon, and Washington.

On Saturday, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said the fatal case in Washington could not be traced to a known infected patient nor to a traveler from China. Meanwhile, the White House announced 14-day bans for any foreign nationals who have traveled through Iran, while the State Department issued its highest possible warning for travel to parts of Italy and South Korea. President Donald Trump said he is considering additional travel restrictions for the border with Mexico, even though the southern neighbor has only two confirmed cases versus the 62 reported in the U.S.

So what is stopping the WHO from calling this epidemic a pandemic? “In reality, it’s semantics,” Sauer says. “But semantics become important when you’re talking to the general public about these issues.”

Why pandemics do—and don’t—matter

Words matter. In a press briefing on Wednesday, director-general Ghebreyesus urged caution against rushing to cry “pandemic.”

“Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems,” he said.

Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University professor who is also director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, highlights that “panic” is literally in the word “pandemic.”

In 2009, people around the world panicked when the WHO described H1N1 influenza as a pandemic, Gostin says, and then the organization was later criticized for raising public alarm when the virus turned out to not be very lethal. H1N1 now returns seasonally and is part of our annual vaccine preparations.

“So the fact that this may become a pandemic is certainly a concern because this is much more deadly than the flu,” Gostin says, “but it’s something we’ll want to delay as long as possible until we get a vaccine, which should probably be within 12 to 18 months.” (Learn about how coronavirus compares to flu, Ebola, and other major outbreaks.)

From a legal standpoint, though, it doesn’t matter whether the WHO calls this a pandemic or not.

Gostin—who points out that the WHO doesn’t even actually “declare” pandemics—says the organization has already declared something far more significant: a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). That declaration legally allows the WHO to make recommendations on how member countries should handle an epidemic. It also mobilizes funding and political support.

So, what happens if COVID-19 is called a pandemic?

While “pandemic” might be merely a label without legal significance, it does have its value. A pandemic signifies that authorities no longer believe they can contain the spread of the virus and must move to mitigation strategies, like closing schools and canceling mass gatherings.

This is precisely why some public health experts argue that the WHO and other global agencies should go ahead and make the call, Sauer says. The sooner that public health authorities and first responders transition to mitigation measures—like the ones we see each year with the flu—the better.

In the U.S., the CDC has already shared its strategy for protecting communities in light of a coronavirus pandemic. It includes “social distancing measures” like closing schools and recommending telework to prevent infected people from spreading the disease to their classmates and colleagues. Events and mass gatherings could be postponed or even canceled. Even this summer’s Tokyo Olympics could be canceled if conditions seem too dangerous. And the CDC would advise delaying elective surgeries to ensure the availability of hospital beds.

Gostin says these social distancing measures are not something that a public health organization would recommend lightly as they impact families, communities, and economies.

“Kids still have to be educated, their parents still have to be able to go to work, and people want to get out and enjoy themselves as well,” Gostin says. “So it’s not something that we’d want to do. Only if it was necessary.”

Individuals can also take preventive measures of their own, including regularly washing their hands, covering their sneezes, and wiping down surfaces.

But Gostin says there’s one thing people really need to remember if the WHO starts calling this a pandemic: “It’s important not to panic.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with the news of the first U.S. death, additional instances of local transmission in the U.S., and the travel restrictions implemented on Saturday, February 29. The story was originally published on February 28. 

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Transport

State Troopers Remove Woman From Flight After an Onboard Fight

Massachusetts State Police escorted a woman off of an American Airlines flight at Boston’s Logan International Airport following an onboard fight early Friday.

According to CBS Boston, the dispute between the woman and other passengers occurred on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston roughly 90 minutes before landing when she returned from the bathroom to find another woman sitting in the seat next to hers.

“(She) said some profanity at me and used profanity at the flight attendants and started yelling about people in the front of the plane who had irritated her before that, and then kind of forced me out of the way, which I got out of the way,” passenger Laura Hill told WBZ-TV.

Another passenger confirmed that the woman was escorted off the plane by police.

“At the end of the flight it was announced that the police were going to come on board and they came on board, walked right to the back where the woman who was taken into custody, they got her, they didn’t put her into cuffs or anything, and just escorted her out,” added passenger Keith Belshaw.

No injuries were reported and no arrests were made since the pilot chose not to press charges, a State Police spokesman told CBS Boston.

Troopers Take Woman Off American Airlines Flight At Logan After Fight https://t.co/EmcT2dbQd4 pic.twitter.com/tABjbKukwm

An English woman is currently facing jail time after allegedly biting the captain on a flight to London last year in a similar incident.

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Travel

Keep Calm and Travel On: Virtuoso's Advice on Coronavirus Concerns

WHY IT RATES: With the public’s fears swirling around the topic of the COVID-19 coronavirus, travel advisors are in a unique position to provide travelers with real-time facts and information so that they can make the best possible decisions for themselves. — Laurie Baratti, TravelPulse Associate Writer

Leading luxury and experiential travel network Virtuoso has been closely monitoring the impact of coronavirus, collaborating and consulting with its travel agency members across the world as well as its preferred partners.

Since COVID-19 first surfaced late last year in Wuhan, China, the virus has become a global epidemic and a disruption to the travel industry, as well as the global economy. To date, people have tested positive for the virus in 73 countries, including the United States; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new Travel Health Notices to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea; and travel plans for many are in disarray.

For those who have a vacation booked in the coming days, weeks or months, it’s valid to feel some trepidation. Fears of contracting the virus, or even being quarantined, are valid. Virtuoso agency owner Josh Bush agrees and says the biggest concern his clients express is not getting sick, it’s getting stuck.

Ultimately, choosing to go forth with your travel plans is a personal call. But how do you sort through the information to make the right decision? These really are the moments when having a travel advisor is key. Seamless trip planning and travel perks aside, an advisor is a traveler’s number-one advocate.

Through years, if not decades, of personal relationships, advisors have access to real-time information and can arm their clients with the facts needed to make confident decisions, provide informed answers to any “What would you do?” concerns, and handle the logistics that sometimes can’t be avoided, from last-minute flight changes to spring break contingency plans.

Virtuoso took the opportunity to consult with some of its 22,000 affiliated travel advisors worldwide to get their insights into what travelers should know as they assess their options.

“Right now, we’re letting travelers know we’re here to support them in making the best decision for their family and giving them the facts to help make that decision,” says Virtuoso agency owner Cristina Buaas.

Here’s what Virtuoso advisors are doing: They are not panicking. They’re staying positive, because this too shall pass. They’re carrying on with their own travel plans – responsibly, of course, by heeding CDC warnings and being extra diligent about hygiene (wash those hands!). Most importantly, they are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak by taking care of their clients. Here is what they want you to know:

Protect your travel investment as you would any other – by seeking professional advice.

“It’s important to give my clients all of the facts about their trip, their destination, and the policies of their travel supplier,” says Virtuoso agency executive Amanda Klimak. “I then help them make a decision about travel based on the facts. I also recommend they speak to their personal physician to discuss the risks based on their medical history. Then I let them know I’m here to help, no matter what they decide.”

A travel advisor knows if or when airlines, hotels, cruise lines and tour operators have waived change and cancellation fees (many have): “The entire travel industry is in uncharted territory now due to coronavirus,” says Virtuoso agency executive Mary Kleen. “As travel advisors, our current role is to listen to travelers’ concerns and provide the most up-to-date options so they can make informed decisions at a minimal cost.”

It’s still OK to travel.

While advisors have seen an increase in postponed or canceled trips to Italy and Asia, travel has not come to a screeching halt. Travelers are choosing closer-to-home locations, including the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Mexico. “I do have some clients switching from Northern Italy to Spain, but other than that, if it’s not on the Department of State list, they’re going,” says Virtuoso agency executive Tania Swasbrook.

“One couple exchanged a tour to Italy for a great one in New Orleans,” Virtuoso agency executive Ange Wallace says. “My recommendations include a Natural Habitat Adventures polar-bear expedition in Churchill, Canada, this fall; the national parks; a healthy stay at Canyon Ranch, Miraval, or another wellness resort; a Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain combo trip; or somewhere in South America – the Galápagos Islands, Colombia and Peru are all fun places to explore with lots of outside time and low crowds.”

Base decisions on timelines, not headlines.

Buaas recently suggested the wait-and-see approach for a traveler planning to take her children to Greece this summer. The situation is evolving rapidly – if you’re traveling to Europe in June and your tour, cruise, or hotel has a 30-day cancellation policy, for example, you don’t have to make a decision until May.

“Our advisors have spent 60 percent of their time in the past week fielding questions about COVID-19,” says Bush. “Very few of those conversations result in cancellations, and that’s because the situation is so fluid and not definite. We are advising travelers to wait and see, especially if there is little or no financial risk to do so.”

Plan now, travel later.

“Traveling is meant to be fun and educational,” says Wallace. “If you’re going to be worried and anxious about your trip, find something that you’ll be comfortable with and enjoy. If that means you sit out travel in the short term, that’s fine. But while you’re waiting, look forward to the recovery, because it will come, and you’ll need to be ready to jump on that trip you’ve been drooling over.”

To avoid losing out on future travel opportunities, Wallace reminds her clients to start planning now. “Book 2021-2022 trips now, because everyone else is and you will have trouble finding space. Many travel companies have relaxed deposits, cancellation penalties and cancel for any reason waivers to encourage those willing to start thinking about the next window of opportunity.”

Travel insurance is always a good idea.

While “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) travel insurance policies may partially cover trip cancellations and adjustments related to the coronavirus outbreak, there are some restrictions, and the policy has to be purchased within 21 days of making an initial trip deposit. (Ask your travel advisor to check with your travel insurance provider to confirm.) If you want to book a trip for later this summer, advisors recommend that CFAR policy. But for those who already have the trip on the books and are outside of the policy’s 21-day window, it’s not too late to at least add some travel insurance: “For those who are still planning on traveling, make sure you have travel insurance that will cover medical expenses should you become ill while traveling,” Klimak advises.

Practice good travel hygiene.

Wash your hands! As soon as you get through security at the airport, make a beeline to the restroom to scrub, Swasbrook advises. Cash frequently changes hands, so she also recommends using credit cards that you can wipe down with a sanitizing cloth. While at it, wipe down airplane surfaces and wash your hands before and after using the restroom on the plane.

As a rule, Wallace recommends taking veranda accommodations on any cruise and requesting hotel rooms with a balcony or outside terrace so that you have access to fresh air.

Be prepared.

Buaas refers travelers to the CDC and U.S. Department of State websites for the latest information, and Klimak tells her travelers to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which shares your contact information with the nearest U.S. embassy and sends travel alert notifications. The STEP app is worth downloading prior to traveling – and while you’re at it, you can swipe that phone with an antibacterial wipe.

For more information, visit virtuoso.com.

SOURCE: Virtuoso press release.

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