Categories
Travel

Chinese airlines to operate more flights than US carriers in May

Chinese airlines have flown more passenger flights in a month than US carriers for the first time ever

  • Data shows Chinese airlines operated 200,000 flights from May 1 until May 27
  • This compares with fewer than 170,000 flights by carriers based in the U.S 
  • U.S operators remain 74% down as a result of the coronavirus crisis downturn 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

May 2020 will be the first-ever month in which Chinese airlines operate more passenger jet flights than their US counterparts.

Tracking data from Cirium shows from Friday, May 1, up to and including Wednesday, May 27, Chinese carriers completed nearly 200,000 flights with passenger-configured widebody, narrowbody and regional jet aircraft.

This compares with fewer than 170,000 flights in May by carriers based in the U.S.

A graph showing how Chinese airlines are currently operating more flights than U.S airlines 

Cirium said that China achieved this milestone ‘because its airlines have recovered to an activity level approximately 35 per cent below last year’.

It added that US operators remain 74 per cent down as a result of the collapse in passenger demand due to the coronavirus crisis.

Meanwhile, the global stored passenger aircraft fleet has declined slightly to just over 15,000, says Cirium, taking the overall proportion of inactive aircraft down a further percentage point to 57 per cent.

Yesterday, American Airlines revealed it would be cutting 30 per cent of its management and support staff in its latest belt-tightening move during the prolonged Covid-19 downturn. 

China’s airlines have recovered to an activity level approximately 35 per cent below last year

The big US carrier outlined a series of measures to reduce headcount throughout its operations in an email to staff that was released in a securities filing on Thursday.

American currently has a team of 17,000 people in management and support, meaning the actions planned will cut about 5,100 jobs.

The move follows statements from United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and other carriers that have signalled deep job cuts due to sinking air travel demand from coronavirus shutdowns.

American Airlines has revealed it will be cutting 30 per cent of its management and support staff in its latest belt-tightening move during the prolonged Covid-19 downturn

Meanwhile, aircraft maker Boeing, one of America’s largest manufacturers as well as its number one exporter, is cutting more than 12,000 U.S jobs.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the airline industry means a deep cut in the number of commercial jets and services our customers will need over the next few years, which in turn means fewer jobs on our lines and in our offices,’ said David Calhoun, CEO and president of Boeing, on Wednesday in a memo to employees.

The Chicago-based company said it would lay off 6,770 U.S employees this week, and another 5,520 workers are taking buyout offers to leave voluntarily in the coming weeks.

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Transport

India domestic air travel to resume May 25 after virus shutdown

Domestic flights ferried 144 million passengers as well as cargo across the vast country last year

No indication was given when international travel would resume.

Domestic air travel will resume in India on May 25 after a two-month shutdown imposed to stop the spread of coronavirus, the aviation minister said Wednesday, in a further easing of national lockdown restrictions.

The government halted all domestic flights – which ferried 144 million passengers as well as cargo across the vast country last year – on March 25, days after suspending international flights.

“All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter.

No indication was given when international travel would resume.

A limited number of interstate Indian trains – on a network which normally carries over 20 million passengers a day – resumed a week ago.

An additional 200 passenger services – 100 pairs of trains operating to and from major and some smaller cities – would resume from June 1, Indian Railways said late Wednesday, adding that online bookings would start from Thursday.

The announcement comes the same day as the country of 1.3 billion people reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections, with 5,611 new cases recorded in 24 hours.

It took the total to 106,750, with financial capital Mumbai the worst-hit city, according to government figures.

More than 3,300 people have died – though unofficial estimates are higher – and Mumbai accounts for almost a quarter of fatalities.

Other major cities such as New Delhi and Ahmedabad are also badly affected.

Hospital bed shortages

Mumbai authorities are looking to requisition thousands of private hospital beds, with state-run care facilities overwhelmed in the city of 20 million people.

“A plan is under consideration to take over 80 percent of beds in private hospitals for non-COVID cases,” Mumbai city spokesperson Vijay Khabale-Patil told AFP.

With some virus patients reportedly sleeping on the streets outside hospitals waiting for beds to become free, authorities say they need to boost the 5,000 available for critically ill patients.

Mumbai has already had to build makeshift field hospitals and turned several landmarks into quarantine facilities, including a 19th-century horse-racing venue, a sports stadium that was used to host NBA games last year and a planetarium.

There are fears the start of the monsoon next month and the spread of diseases like dengue fever will add to the burden.

The capital New Delhi, also home to 20 million people, has likewise been badly hit.

It now has more than 10,000 cases and while authorities have confirmed only 160 coronavirus deaths, media reports – citing cemetery records – say there have been almost triple that number at least.

Gujarat state’s largest city, Ahmedabad, has meanwhile recorded 8,945 cases with nearly 600 deaths.

Experts predict the epidemic will worsen in the major cities over the next month and infections are only expected to peak in June or July.

Despite the crisis in cities, the Indian government has insisted it is keeping the spread under control in the world’s second-most populous nation.

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Cruises

Nexion Unveils Tools to Help Agents Thrive Post COVID-19

Nexion Travel Group is fortifying its agent members with a portfolio of programs and tools designed help them thrive once coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us to a truly unprecedented time. Our members, like all travel advisors, are bravely navigating through these difficult waters,” said Nexion Travel Group President Jackie Friedman. “As their host agency, Nexion Travel Group has been working hard to creatively think of ways we can support them in developing their business, sharpening their skills and continuing to be a trusted travel advisor to their clients.”

For starters, Nexion is offering a Back to Basics webinar series, featuring subject matter experts to help agents tackle such subjects as marketing.

The host agency’s business development and education team created Chaos to Control, a virtual learning series designed to help advisors see their way through pandemic and subsequent recovery.

Nexion is also offering Chime-in Chat, biweekly Zoom meetings with the host agency’s top executives, enabling travel advisors to hear their candid thoughts on the current travel climate and to answers their questions and listen to their concerns.

As part of the former Travel Leaders Group, which has changed its name to Internova, Nexion has also offered its financial assistance webinars to members, featuring expert information on new legislation and programs like the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program, and much more.

“Until we can get back to travel, we are committed to helping our members use this time to their best advantage,” Friedman said. “It is not only our duty to do that, it is our privilege. As these travel advisors continue to work hard for their clients with cancellations and refunds for booked trips, we are standing beside them, ready to help support them and make sure that when this pandemic is over, their travel agencies are ready to thrive.”

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Travel

Travel firms to trust for your post-lockdown holiday

Titans that came up trumps in a crisis: Travel firms to trust for your post-lockdown holiday

  • Trailfinders tops the list for service and strong finances, writes Neil Simpson   
  • Kuoni is singled out by researchers at Which? for a fair-play refund policy
  • Smaller firms such as Inn Travel and Leger Holidays have also won praise 

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at an important holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: travel firms to trust for your next holiday.

Look ahead to 2021 and you’ll find a series of amazing holiday deals already appearing. Trailfinders is offering savings of more than £1,500 per couple on seven-night wellness holidays in St Lucia – stays in an all-inclusive five-star hotel with complimentary spa treatments each day and dinner in a choice of five restaurants every night now costs £2,699pp.

Turn to Kuoni and you can find flights and ten-night self-drive tours through Florida to take in the Art Deco buildings of Miami, the shabby chic of Key West and Fort Lauderdale’s sandy beaches from £1,695pp. Alternatively, get away from it all on a 12-night tour of remote lodges and safari hotels in Namibia, on offer from Exodus from £3,199pp, including flights.

Putting on the style: The iconic Art Deco buildings of Miami can be seen on a Florida self-drive tour

But is it wise to book 2021 trips while the travel industry is in the midst of a storm over slow refunds on many of this year’s breaks?

No one can say where we may be next summer. But it is already clear which companies have treated their customers best throughout the coronavirus crisis to date.

Heading our hall of fame is Trailfinders (trailfinders.com), which tops the list for service and strong finances. While most rivals are offering customers only vouchers for cancelled holidays, it continues to offer refunds on demand. It has also won fans for its ‘virtual appointments’, with staff connected to their usual research and reservation systems from home.

Kuoni (kuoni.co.uk) is singled out by researchers at Which? for a fair-play refund policy, while Exodus (exodus.co.uk) has won plaudits for its flexible deposits plan. This means customers booking now can switch to any other holiday for free up to ten weeks before departure.

Solo traveller firm Friendship Travel (friendshiptravel.com) also has a good record for flexibility and refunds. Premier Inn (premierinn.com) gets a mention for recrediting cards quickly, while Caribbean specialist Sandals (sandals.co.uk) is on the list for helping pioneer discounts to NHS workers booking for next summer.

It’s equally important to know your tour firm won’t abandon you if things go wrong while you’re away. Experts in the Travel Counsellors group (travelcounsellors.co.uk) went to extraordinary lengths to repatriate clients when borders began to close in March.

Rare treat: Spot leopards on a bargain safari tour of Namibia

One Norfolk-based counsellor started organising emergency paperwork at 4am while tracking a series of back-up flights to get one couple home from Vietnam and another from the South Pacific.

Staff at Titan Travel (titantravel.co.uk) did similarly sterling work, including putting customers in Australia on a non-stop flight from Darwin to the UK when the original route via Singapore was cancelled.

And while those who booked travel through international firms such as Expedia say they were left hanging on phone lines for hours when the first wave of flight cancellations hit, clients of smaller, UK-based firms had no such problems. Holidaymakers with Inn Travel (inntravel.co.uk), Newmarket Holidays (newmarketholidays.co.uk) and Leger Holidays (leger.co.uk) have all won praise. Leger, for example, instantly moved this year’s cancelled bookings for the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria to the rescheduled 2022 dates while honouring 2020 prices.

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Categories
Transport

Southwest Offers Promotion to Entice Customers

Airlines are looking for a way to overcome the sudden – but seemingly lasting – drop in the demand for travel, and Southwest thinks it has a short-term boost.

The Dallas-based budget carrier has launched a new promotion to entice fliers back into the air.

From now until August 31, 2020, passengers who register for the airline’s new promotion will be given double Rapid Rewards loyalty program miles.

According to Forbes, current Southwest Airlines loyalty members earn miles as a function of how much their ticket costs. For every dollar spent on a flight (exclusive of taxes), discounted economy tickets earn 6 miles, standard economy tickets earn 10 and business fares earn 12. With this new promotion, an additional 6, 10 or 12 miles will be rewarded to the traveler after the journey is taken. In turn, the award balances can be converted to free flights or other perks.

“We’re all eager to move again in a new chapter that feels more familiar, and Southwest is giving Customers the freedom to dream and the inspiration to confidently recapture the magic of travel,” Ryan Green, Southwest Airlines Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer said in a statement. “And for those Customers preparing to return to the skies, our Southwest Promise is a fortified focus on supporting Customer and Employee health throughout the journey, bringing new peace of mind and comfort with the familiar warmth and value that only Southwest can provide.”

This new promotion also comes on the heels of a fare sale that Southwest launched. Customers may take advantage of fares starting from $49 to $99 one-way to select nonstop continental U.S. destinations. Examples include:

– As low as $49 one-way nonstop between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City

– As low as $79 one-way nonstop between Nashville and Philadelphia

– And as low as $99 one-way nonstop between Dallas and New York

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Cruises

Royal Caribbean To Eliminate Buffets on Post-Coronavirus Cruises

Royal Caribbean announced during a conference call that health and safety changes being planned for a post-coronavirus cruise industry include eliminating traditional buffet offerings.

According to CruiseCritic.com, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley revealed during a virtual call with the cruise line’s senior vice president Vicki Freed that buffets will have to be at least temporarily removed from ships to avoid any concerns about the spread of illnesses.

“I think in the beginning, there will not be a buffet, that’s how I see it,” Bayley said. “We will utilize the space, we will utilize the Windjammer, but in all probability, it won’t be a classical buffet.”

“It will be something more akin to a restaurant,” Bayley continued.

The likely removal of buffets from dining areas is just the latest in a long line of health and safety changes being made to ensure the cruise line will be able to sail when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifts its no-sail order.

Royal Caribbean is also working with the CDC on enhanced measures to protect the health, safety and security of guests, crew and the communities visited when operations resume.

Last month, the cruise line filed a patent application for its own branded version of a face mask to protect passengers and employees. Dubbed Seaface, the plan is for the safety devices to be implemented on all of the company’s ships.

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Cruises

Hotels Continue to Give Back

As the hotel industry continues to struggle with the havoc wreaked upon it by the coronavirus, many properties are involved in charitable initiatives to help bolster their local communities.

Here’s a rundown of just some of the latest endeavors unveiled by hotels and resorts.

Massachusetts’ Nantucket Hotel & Resort, which was deemed an essential service company and remains open, is serving 200 meals a week to the Boys and Girls Club in partnership with the ReMain Nantucket, a nonprofit organization.

At the request of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, the resort has also made room available to patients who have been discharged are still not well enough to re-enter the community.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas donated a variety of items, valued at $500,000, to such local organizations as Three Square, The Just One Project and Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. The property has also donated upward of 104,000 pounds of food and beverages to the Las Vegas community.

The Ranch Malibu in Malibu, Calif., is harvesting and producing food baskets from its organic garden for its staff and the surrounding community. It has also scheduled individual visits for staff and their families to take advantage of the pool area, hike the property, and more.

The Lotte New York Palace is taking part in the Fanatics’ ALL IN Challenge –a digital fundraiser created to feed those in need – and is donating package for a four-night stay in the hotel’s three-floor Champagne Suite.

The package includes dinner for four with an in-suite champagne tasting; an in-suite magic show from the in-house magician, Steve Cohen from Chamber Magic; spa treatments; and VIP airport transfers. The money raised will be distributed to Feeding America, Meals On Wheels, World Central Kitchen and No Kid Hungry.

AHC Hospitality, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based hotel management group, has teamed up with Amway to create The Groove, a four-week a virtual dance competition designed to raise money for Michigan’s health workers and to cultivate a sense of community for the local population.

Amway will donate $10 to the West Michigan Hero Fund for each uploaded dance. The winner of the competition, which ends on May 30, will receive $10,000.

AHC Hospitality’s portfolio includes Amway Grand Plaza, JW Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott in Grand Rapids; Peter Island Resort & Spa in the British Virgin Islands; and The Waterfront Inn in Sumter County, Florida.

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Categories
Destinations

EU issues guidelines to facilitate summer travel within Europe

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Wednesday unveiled its
plan to help citizens across the 27 nations salvage their summer vacations
after months of tough coronavirus confinement and to hopefully resurrect Europe’s
badly battered tourism industry.

Around 150,000 people have died across Europe and Britain
since the virus surfaced in northern Italy in February, but with the spread of
the disease tapering off, people in many countries are cautiously venturing out
of confinement to return to work and some schools are reopening.

A question on the minds of people, tour operators and the
thousands of small businesses that depend on the tourism industry is whether
this year’s warmest months will turn into a lost summer, with most Europeans
reduced to a home-style “staycation.”

“This is not going to be a normal summer, not for any of us.
But when we all work together, and we all do our part … then we don’t have to
face a summer stuck at home or a complete lost summer for the European tourist
industry,” European Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager told
reporters.

In a series of guidelines, the EU’s executive arm, the
European Commission, laid out its advice for lifting ID checks on hastily
closed borders, helping to get airlines, ferries and buses running while
ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, and preparing health measures for
hotels to reassure clients.

But a big question remains: will the countries of the world’s
biggest trading bloc follow the advice? Faced with a disease about which much
is still unknown, national capitals have tended to go it alone, and they — not
the EU Commission — have the final say over health and security matters.

The commission’s over-arching advice is that EU countries
with similar rates of coronavirus infections and comparably strong healthcare
systems should begin lifting border measures between each other. Tourists from
outside Europe cannot enter until at least June 15.

The move comes amid deep concern that Europe’s ID-check free
travel zone — the 26-country space known as the Schengen Area — is being
strangled by controls, further harming virus-ravaged economies by limiting the
movement of goods, services and people that are essential to business.

Austria and Germany said Wednesday they plan to start
loosening border controls this weekend after two months of restrictions. German
interior minister Horst Seehofer said all border crossing points with France,
Switzerland and Austria will be opened — compared with a select few currently.
Border guards will no longer check all travelers, as they have been since March
16.

In a tweet, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced a
shift from Friday to “random checks at the German-Austrian border and on June
15 the border should be opened again.” He said his government is looking to do
the same “with Switzerland, Liechtenstein and neighboring countries in Eastern
Europe, provided the infection numbers allow it.”

Even with border restrictions easing, social-distancing
rules would apply, and the EU Commission is recommending that robust disease
monitoring measures are put in place — including good testing capacity and
contact tracing — so that people have the confidence to return to hotels and
camping sites abroad.

With airlines and travel operators buckling under a
liquidity crisis after governments ordered the cancellation and grounding of
many flights and limits on public life, the commission is hoping for a greater
use of air travel vouchers, which would be more flexible than tickets and could
limit the need for refunds. That would save time for consumers and spare
airlines and operators the cost of refunds in some cases.

Vouchers would be protected against the company going
bankrupt, and valid for at least a year, with trips remaining refundable if the
vouchers are not redeemed. The vouchers would also be transferable to another
traveler, under the guidelines.

Tourism-reliant Greece, which handled the coronavirus better
than most of its partners but whose economy was already severely weakened by
its debt crisis, has thrown its weight behind the commission plan, and is
calling for the resumption of travel between EU countries by June 15. It says
prospective travelers should be tested three days before departure.

A government document seen by the Associated Press says that
while containing the pandemic remains key, “health measures should be
implemented in a way that minimize unnecessary impact on cross-border travel.”
It calls for a coordinated response, backed by EU funding, that would allow
resumption of air, road, train and sea travel simultaneously.
___

Raf Casert in Brussels, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Sylvie
Corbet in Paris and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.

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Categories
Destinations

Is leisure travel all set to return for summer?


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Categories
Transport

United to notify flyers when flight is crowded

United will begin notifying customers 24 hours ahead of time
if their flight is going to be crowded. Customers will then have the option of
rebooking or receiving a travel credit. 

The policy will last through June 30. 

The move, to go into effect next week, comes after a Twitter
image of a packed United 737 drew national headlines. The tweet was posted
Saturday by Ethan Weiss, a doctor flying home to San Francisco with a group of
physicians and nurses who had been working for the past few weeks in New York
City hospitals. 

I guess @united is relaxing their social distancing policy these days? Every seat full on this 737 pic.twitter.com/rqWeoIUPqL

“This is the last time I’ll be flying again for a very long
time,” Weiss wrote. 

In a statement on its website, United explained that despite
a 90% reduction in its schedule, 85% of its flights are still less than half
full. However, a small number of flights are more crowded. 

“To make it easier for our customers to plan, we’ll do our
best to contact them about 24 hours before their departure time so they can
decide whether to adjust their plans before they arrive at the airport — and
we’ll provide this option at the gate, if more than 70% of customers have
checked in,” the carrier said. 

In an April 29 email to customers, United chief customer
officer Toby Enqvist wrote that the carrier had begun automatically blocking
middle seats in order provide passengers with enough space. 

United has now backed away from that guarantee. Its website
currently says that the airline has adjusted its seat-selection systems to
avoid seating separate parties next to each other “where possible.”

“While we cannot guarantee that all customers will be seated
next to an unoccupied seat, based on historically low travel demand and the
implementation of our various social distancing measures, that is the likely
outcome,” the website says.

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