Travel watch latest – US cruise market could reopen by mid-July – The Moodie Davitt Report
INTERNATIONAL. As the world edges towards the nascent stages of an international travel recovery, we bring you a regular update of relevant stories from mainstream and industry media around the world, as well as our own sources.
USA. Cruises could return to the crucial US market by mid-July, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with details reported by USA Today.
The CDC has updated its guidance for cruises companies to return to operations safely, including an easing of restrictions for vaccinated passengers and crew. It said that passenger voyages from the US could begin this Summer, depending on cruise lines’ compliance with the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.
The full USA Today story with cruise industry reaction can be accessed here.
US/EUROPE. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the comments of European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen, confirming that the EU will grant unrestricted access to vaccinated travellers from the US. The comments were made in von der Leyen’s interview with The New York Times, which was published yesterday.
IATA Director General Willie Walsh said: “This is a step in the right direction. It gives hope to people for so many reasons – to travel, to reunite with loved ones, to develop business opportunities or to get back to work. To fulfil that hope, details of the EC’s intentions are essential.
“To be fully prepared, it is imperative that the EC works with the industry so that airlines can plan within the public health benchmarks and timelines that will enable unconditional travel for those vaccinated, not just from the US but from all countries using vaccines that are approved by the European Medicines Association.”
He added: “Equally critical will be clear, simple and secure digital processes for vaccination certificates. The IATA Travel Pass can help industry and governments manage and verify vaccination status, as it does with testing certificates.
“But we are still awaiting the development of globally recognised standards for digital vaccine certificates. As a first step, it is vital that the EU accelerates adoption of the European Green Certificate. President von der Leyen’s comments should add urgency to this work.”
A statement from IATA also said that the freedom to travel should not exclude those who are unable to be vaccinated. The presentation of negative COVID-19 test results should also facilitate travel, it said. Central to this is acceptance by EU governments of rapid antigen tests that the Commission has approved for use and which fulfil the critical criteria of effective, convenient and affordable.
Walsh added: “The freedom to travel must not be restricted to only those who have access to vaccinations. Vaccines are not the only way to safely reopen borders. Government risk models should also include COVID-19 testing.”
USA. United Airlines has said it is preparing to capitalise on emerging pent-up demand for travel to countries where vaccinated travellers are welcome. The company this week announced new international flights to Greece, Iceland and Croatia, subject to government approval, as it announced Q1 results.
The company said: “These opportunistic steps help position United to return to positive net income even if business and long-haul international demand only returns to about 35% below 2019 levels.
“The United team has now spent a year facing down the most disruptive crisis our industry has ever faced and because of their skill and dedication to our customers, we’re poised to emerge from this pandemic with a future that is brighter than ever,” said United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. “We have shifted our focus to the next milestone on the horizon and now see a clear path to profitability. We are encouraged by the strong evidence of pent-up demand for air travel and our continued ability to nimbly match it, which is why we’re as confident as ever that we’ll hit our goal to exceed 2019 adjusted EBITDA margins in 2023, if not sooner.”
More via the Financial Times here.
USA. The US State Department is to advise Americans to avoid travelling to around 80% of countries worldwide because of the pandemic, reports the BBC and other media sources today.
Updating its travel guidance, the US government said the pandemic continues to “pose unprecedented risks to travellers”.
It said the move would “result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80% of countries worldwide”.
SOUTH KOREA. Three more airports – Gimpo International (Seoul), Gimhae International (Busan) and Daegu Internatonal (Daegu) – will be allowed to run international ‘Flights to nowhere’ to help the pandemic-hit airline and duty free sectors ride out the prolonged COVID-19 crisis, Yonhap News Agency reported today, citing the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
Flights to nowhere start and end at the same airport and offer duty free sales, while passengers are exempted from mandatory COVID-19 testing and the quarantine process after arrival, Yonhap reported.
Soundbite (Source: Yonhap News Agency): Since Asiana Airlines offered the nation’s first destination-less flight on December 12, seven airlines have operated 75 flights to nowhere that have attracted about 8,000 passengers.
HONG KONG. The long-awaited air travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore could be in place by mid-May, The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported today. Citing reliable sources, SCMP said that quarantinee-free tourism between the two locations is set to recommenced after being thwarted at the last-minute in late 2020 due to a spike in Hong Kong COVID-19 cases. Hong Kong residents have to be vaccinated before flying to Singapore under the arrangement, though no similar requirement has yet been indicated by the Singaporean authorities.
Soundbite (Source: The South China Morning Post): Covid-19 testing is expected to remain a condition for the bubble. This would also mean individuals in either city must have stayed there for two weeks before departure. Under initial conditions, both Singapore and Hong Kong would require a PCR test taken on departure, while travellers arriving in the latter city would also need to be screened again.
Singapore was a front-runner over Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam in forming a travel bubble with Hong Kong, tourism experts said earlier.
UK. Virgin Voyages has announced plans to set sail from Portsmouth, England with a limited series of voyages this summer.
The staycation-at-sea series – exclusive to UK-residents – will include two, three and four-night itineraries in British waters. There will be a total of six sailings this August.
“Virgin Voyages has been looking forward to sailing, and we’re so excited to announce our plans to sail from the UK,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group. “Our team has curated such a fantastic experience for our sailors and know this is a holiday they will love.”
UAE. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, the newest national airline of the United Arab Emirates, today announced its first flight to Tel Aviv on 18 April, following the announcement that Israel has been added to the green list (a line-up of countries, regions and territories that visitors can travel from if planning a trip to Abu Dhabi), meaning travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival in the emirate.
The flights from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv will be available three times per week in April, moving to daily flights in May.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi Managing Director Kees Van Schaick said: “In light of the recently eased restrictions, I’m delighted to announce the date of the first WIZZ flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv later this month. The connection between the two cities is a historic moment – the link between the UAE and Israel will further contribute to the tourism sector and help to diversify the local economy, while bringing new low-fare business and leisure opportunities for travellers.”
UAE. Emirates will begin trialing a coronavirus travel passport at Dubai International Airport within days, Chief Operations Officer Adel Al Redha told local media title The National. air travel.
The digital travel pass, created by the International Air Transport Association (IATA),
Soundbite (Source: The National)
“We’re expecting to start trialling within the next few days,” Mr Al Redha told Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast.
“We’ve done all the background and we’ve done all the IP links between us and IATA. In addition to that we’ll also be linking with the Dubai Health Authority.
“We will be trying it, and we’ll have passengers on actual flights going through this process to make sure that, if there are any technical glitches in the systems, we can overcome them.”
QATAR. Qatar Airways continues to lead the recovery of international travel, operating the world’s first fully COVID-19 vaccinated flight today.
QR6421 will depart Hamad International Airport at 11:00 local time carrying only vaccinated crew and passengers onboard, with passengers also to be served by fully vaccinated staff at check-in.
The special flight, which will return to Doha at 14:00, will showcase all the measures the airline has put in place to ensure the highest standards of safety and hygiene onboard, including its latest innovation, the world’s first ‘Zero-Touch’ inflight entertainment technology.
The special service will be operated by the airline’s most technologically advanced and sustainable aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000, with the flight also fully carbon offset in line with the carrier’s environmental responsibilities.
AUSTRALIA-NEW ZEALAND. New Zealand is to allow quarantine-free visits by Australians from 19 April, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today, creating a long-awaited air travel bubble for the trans-Tasman cousin nations.
Most Australian states have permitted quarantine-free visits from New Zealanders for months, but its near neighbour has continued mandatory quarantine constraints to prevent any COVID-19 outbreaks.
Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA) President Sunil Tuli welcomed the news (see full story below) and said it had positive repercussions not only for Australasia but also for the whole Asia Pacific region.
“The Australia-New Zealand news is both welcome and significant – first as a sign that the health crisis is improving and secondly that well thought-out bilateral arrangements, backed by appropriate health protocols, can work. Trans-Tasman passenger traffic volumes were very considerable in the past, so the return of hopefully a big and growing slice of that traffic spells good news for airports and their various retail, food & beverage and services partners, which have been hit so hard in the past 12 months.
“We are hopeful of similarly positive air travel bubble developments soon between other locations in the region such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Mainland China, to give our sector the boost it so badly needs,” Tuli said.
Live trans-Tasman bubble: ‘Start of a new chapter’ quarantine-free travel with Australia will begin on April 19
Soundbite (Source: Stuff.co.nz)
Air New Zealand is pre-loading the bubbles for customers on board its first quarantine-free flights across the ditch – 24,000 bottles in fact, a media statement says. From April 19, 2021, Air NZ will be ramping up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says the airline is incredibly excited to have the border reopen to our Aussie neighbours. “This is terrific news. I know Kiwis and Australians have been wanting to reconnect with whānau and friends for a year now and we’re incredibly excited to be playing a part in those reunions.”
Airbus sees medium-haul air travel recovery by 2023
European planemaker Airbus sees demand for flying on the industry’s most-used jets – the medium-haul A320 and Boeing 737 families – recovering to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, amid concerns over the shape of demand for bigger models.
Leisure travel recovery ‘in full swing,’ helping airlines
A recovery in leisure travel is “in full swing” and airline bookings are in upswing, analysts at Bank of America said in a note Monday, raising their expectations for share prices for a few of the U.S. air carriers.
Coronavirus: Hong Kong to lift ban on residents stranded in Britain; quarantine rules to be eased for arrivals from Australia, New Zealand and Singapore
The government also announced on Monday the extension of the “Return2HK” programme – which currently exempts quarantine only for those returning from Guangdong and Macau – to include all airports in mainland China.
Covid passports: What are different countries planning?
The certificate, either digital or on paper, will enable anyone vaccinated against Covid, or who has tested negative, or recently recovered from the virus, to travel across all 27 member states. The EU also wants to include non-EU countries such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
For any such certificate or passport to work, it is going to need two things – access to a country’s official records of vaccinations and a secure method of identifying an individual and linking them to their health record. And if such a digital certificate is to be accepted by the border force of another country, it will probably have to adhere to common standards set by organisations such as the WHO or the EU.
How the Seychelles is racing to become the world’s safest destination
From Thursday (March 25,) the Seychelles is lifting restrictions for all visitors, other than those traveling from South Africa.
Although incoming arrivals are required to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their departure, travelers are no longer subject to any quarantine requirements or movement restrictions during their visit.
“We are comfortable that we’ve achieved the immunity that we deserve,” says Sylvestre Radegonde [Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism for the Seychelles]. “We’ve trained the establishments. We have the facilities in place.
“The health facilities are there and the measures we have implemented are working. We are comfortable that we’ve achieved the immunity that we deserve. So we’re comfortable to reopen.”
Singapore and Australia airline stocks surge after talks on air travel bubble
Both Singapore and Australia appear to have brought the infection under relative control, while vaccination programs are also underway.
“We are also discussing the possibility of an air travel bubble which will allow residents of Singapore and Australia to travel between both countries without the need for quarantine.”
When can we go on a cruise again?
“The imposition, if you will, of a vaccination requirement, having that documented, and testing everybody who gets on board, would very substantially reduce the risk and would contribute in a very important way to the rejuvenation of the cruising industry.”
How vaccinated travelers became hot property
With its out of control infection rates and deaths heading past the 125,000 mark, the UK started 2021 as Europe’s Covid pariah.
Now though, after a vaccination program that has seen more than a third of all adults receive at least one dose, countries across Europe, and tour operators who have struggled over the past 12 months, are falling over themselves to welcome weary Brits for a dose of summer sun.