Tui to refund all customers by end of month following investigation

canary island
canary island

Tui has agreed to pay out all refunds it owes to customers by the end of September, following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The CMA has received thousands of complaints from customers who had been left waiting for weeks to get their money back for cancelled trips. Refunds for cancelled package holidays should be processed within 14 days. 

Tui’s commitment to refund consumers covers all the brand’s businesses that offer package holidays: First Choice, First Choice Holidays, Marella Cruises, Crystal Ski, Crystal, Tui Scene, Tui Lakes and Mountains, and Skytours.

Customers who were issued refund credit notes will be told that they are entitled to a cash refund, which they should receive within 14 days. 

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said: “It is absolutely essential that people have trust and confidence when booking package holidays and know that if a cancellation is necessary as a result of coronavirus, businesses will give them a full, prompt refund […] The CMA is continuing to investigate package holiday firms in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. If we find that businesses are not complying with consumer protection law, we will not hesitate to take further action.”

Hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers have seen their holidays cancelled amid ongoing travel restrictions; the Government reviews its quarantine list each Thursday with restrictions coming into effect at 4am the following Saturday.

Scroll down for the latest travel updates.

10:17 AM

Dozens of destinations ease restrictions ahead of winter sun holidays

British holidaymakers should have options for winter sun this year with 53 per cent of destinations having eased travel restrictions as of early September, according to a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) report. 

Reopening details have emerged for a number of countries in recent weeks, including Mauritius, Madagascar, Nicaragua and a clutch of Caribbean islands. Even Thailand and South Africa, which have had blanket travel bans in place, are tentatively working towards restarting tourism. 

Britons travelling to these many of these destinations will face provisos, such as presenting a negative Covid-19 test on arrival or a combination of testing and quarantine. Plus, if the a country does not have a travel corridor with the UK Britons will face 14-days of self-isolation on their return. However, it offers hope of options beyond Europe.

The UNWTO report follows the emergence of plans for a standardised “traffic light” quarantine system that could see UK travellers locked out of the EU, based on current Covid-19 infection rates.

10:13 AM

Italy’s Lazio region trials airport tests for domestic flights

Travellers flying between Rome and Milan will have to present negative Covid-19 test results from today as part of an experiment by the Lazio region that could be extended to international flights.

People leaving either city will have to either take a rapid Covid test at the airport before boarding the so-called ‘Covid-free’ flights or within 72 before departure.

Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio, described the initiative as a ‘European novelty’.

“The Lazio model is [for those] with a [flight] ticket to have a quick swab test to ensure the flights are absolutely safe and do not carry people who are positive,” he wrote on Facebook. “It will be a great help to the economy and a model for tourism that we want to replicate on international routes.”

10:09 AM

British Airways boss: People are still afraid of travelling

The boss of British Airway told MPs people are “still afraid of travelling” as he defended the airline’s decision to cut up to 12,000 jobs.

He told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs are concerned.”

10:02 AM

A view from Israel: Anger and defiance reveals the problem with second lockdowns

Days before one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar, Israel has started a second lockdown. Dana Regev offers a view from the country.

From Friday, Israelis will be banned from travelling more than 500 metres from their homes - Getty
From Friday, Israelis will be banned from travelling more than 500 metres from their homes – Getty

Israelis are no strangers to internal divisions, and certainly not to a general sense of political despair, but nothing could prepare them for the grim news of a second coronavirus lockdown, going into effect on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

While many citizens are struggling to make sense of the new instructions, the country’s Health Ministry has reported yet another record high of new daily infections (4,973 at the time of writing), making Israelis feel that despite the upcoming feast, there isn’t really much to celebrate.

This ongoing spike is what prompted the government to impose a second lockdown, scheduled to last through the entire three-week Jewish High Holiday season. But it has resulted in a particularly gloomy atmosphere, atypical for this otherwise warm, cheerful time of year.

Read the full story.

09:41 AM

Comment: Italians seem to think face masks make them invincible

My colleague Emma Cooke has just returned from Italy where she was left perturbed by the country’s approach to face coverings:

In the UK, I’d thought mask wearing was pretty prevalent. Coming out of Naples airport, I realised I’d been woefully naive. Grateful to whip my mask off after a long and hot journey wearing it, I looked around to see that few were doing the same, despite being in the fresh air. 

In Italy mask wearing outside is mandatory when “in proximity of locations and premises that are open to the public, as well as in public spaces whose physical characteristics may facilitate the formation of gatherings of both spontaneous and/or occasional nature.” This only applies between the hours of 6pm and 6am – coronavirus sleeps during the daytime, you see – so we should have been in the clear. Playing it safe, I put my mask back on – at least until out of sight of the airport. But as we moved away from the crowds, I was surprised to see few besides us removing their masks, even in the 30C heat.

To be clear, I’m not an avid anti-masker. They’re not comfortable, but I’m perfectly happy to follow rules if they’ll help people stay safe. Besides, wearing a mask is a cheap price to pay for a holiday on Italy’s beautiful coast. But it’s difficult not to wonder at the wisdom of an unrelenting devotion to mask-wearing above all else, especially outside, when an array of evidence shows the risk of catching Covid there is minimal. 

Read Emma’s full piece.

09:28 AM

Growing number of countries support international airport testing scheme, says WTTC chief

Gloria Guevara, chief executive and president of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), comments on the news that the G20 is considering an international airport scheme to sidestep quarantine:

[A testing regime] before departure is crucial to resume international travel. This is the best way to [avoid importing] cases, but also be able to travel with people that tested negative, which will allow us to bring back million of jobs and support the recovery

More and more countries are adopting the measure due to strong evidence, but still a common international testing protocol and more internal coordination is needed , which will allow a recovery in a [shorter] time frame than without it. We see some positive indications with several countries supporting this and welcome recent announcement

09:18 AM

Wuhan resumes international flights after eight month pause

Wuhan, the Chinese city worst-hit by Covid-19, has welcomed its first international passenger in eight months.

The flight, operated by South Korean carrier T’way, landed in Wuhan Tianhe International Airport today with 60 passengers, including 11 South Koreans, on board.

All passengers had to provide a nucleic acid test certificate with negative result issued within 72 hours of departure by a hospital designated by the Chinese Embassy in South Korea.

T’way, which suspended flights to Wuhan in January, will operate one round-trip flight every week between the Chinese airport and Incheon International Airport, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The airport in the central Chinese city, which was placed under lockdown after authorities detected the country’s first COVID-19 cases, saw the numbers of domestic flights and passengers return to 2019 levels last week.

09:10 AM

Thomas Cook relaunched as online-only tour operator

Thomas Cook has relaunched as an online-only travel company, exactly one year after its collapse. The 178-year-old brand was bought by Chinese firm Fosun Travel Group for £11 million following its demise, which left 150,000 holidaymakers stranded overseas. 

Relaunching today, it will sell holidays online and over the phone – but will not have a presence on the high street. It has retained the brand’s logo, and employs just 50 people – a far cry from the 9,000 jobs that were axed last year.

The company is currently only selling holidays to beach resort destinations with no quarantine or FCO restrictions – including Italy, Barbados, and some areas of Greece. 

Alan French, Thomas Cook’s new UK Chief Executive, addressed the difficulties of launching a travel company amid the pandemic: “We know Brits are keen to travel but feel nervous about safety and any changes to Government rules on quarantine. We are only selling destinations on the travel corridor list and all the hotels are flexible.”

Read the full story.

09:02 AM

Latvia reduces quarantine to 10 days for British travellers

Latvia has announced that from September 17 it will reduce the quarantine period for arrivals from countries it deems ‘high risk’ from 14 days to to 10 days. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advice for Latvia states:

  • From 17 September, asymptomatic travellers arriving in Latvia from the UK are required to self-isolate for 10 days

  • From 16 July, all passengers are required on arrival to complete and hand to their transport provider a contact form giving contact details, listing the countries visited in the previous 14 days, and undertaking to comply with the epidemiological security measures established in Latvia

Latvia is included on the UK’s travel “green list”.

08:54 AM

‘We’re still fighting for our survival’, BA boss tells Transport Select Committee

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee that the coronavirus pandemic is “the worst crisis for BA”.

Mr Cruz said:

Covid has devastated our business, our sector, and we’re still fighting for our own survival.

Just to give you some figures as you asked. Last week, we flew approximately 187,000 passengers in the different flights we had in and out of the UK.

The same week in the previous year, we flew just under a million passengers. So we are running between 25-30 per cent of the normal flight schedule and this is six months into the pandemic.

The relationship is very clear. Fewer passengers means fewer flights, and fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.

As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast.

Alex Cruz: Airport testing teams are standing idle while our Government sits on its hands

08:47 AM

Ministers face fresh calls for airport Covid tests in Scotland

The Scottish Government is facing renewed calls to introduce a coronavirus testing regime for airports, reports the PA.

Labour has demanded that ministers introduce a “robust” system, with passengers tested on arrival in Scotland and  follow-up checks carried out later.

The party’s transport spokesman Colin Smyth insisted a testing scheme was needed amid job losses across the aviation sector.

Mr Smyth insisted that the current Scottish Government quarantine system – which sees those arriving in Scotland from countries deemed to be Covid-19 hotspots required to self isolate for 14 days – was “not fit for purpose”.

The Telegraph is campaigning for quarantine to be scrapped through airport testing.

08:37 AM

Sweden records lowest number of daily cases since March

Sweden has seen its fewest daily cases of Covid-19 since March.

The country was initially criticised for not implementing the lockdown measures seen elsewhere in Europe, but is now recording significantly fewer cases than European hotspots. Its rolling seven-day average stood at 108 on Tuesday.

Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart – Cases default

Read more: What life is really like in lockdown-free Sweden

Read more: Here in Sweden we’re playing the long game, and listening to science not fear

08:31 AM

European Commission extends waiver of airport slot rule

A rule that forces airlines to use their airport slots or face losing them is being waived until March, 2021. 

European Commissioner for Transport Adina Iona Vălean announced the move on Monday after calls from aviation industry groups to extend the waiver, which was due to expire in October

Airports association ACI Europe warned that a failure to grant the waiver of the EC’s 80-20 ‘use-it-or-slot-it’ slots rule would “paralyse the winter-planning process”.

08:20 AM

Which countries could be quarantined next?

Tomorrow will bring the Government’s latest review of its quarantine policy. Denmark looks set to be added to the travel “red list”. Here’s how other countries are faring: 

Which countries could be quarantined next: Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker
Which countries could be quarantined next: Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker

08:17 AM

G20 leaders to consider international plan for airport coronavirus testing

An international airport testing regime to enable travellers to sidestep quarantine is to be considered by G20 leaders, reports Charles Hymas.

The plan, proposed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), would mean that travellers from “low-risk” countries could avoid quarantine altogether if they arrived with a negative test result.

Those coming from countries with a rate above 25 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people would have to take a second test after three to four days which, if negative, would release them from quarantine.

Around 120 bosses of the world’s biggest travel and aviation businesses – including airlines such as BA, tour operators including TUI, hotel groups and international airports – have backed the plan.

Read the full story.

08:10 AM

Airlines have escaped fines for breaking UK law for 17 years, says Which?

No airlines have been fined in the UK for breaking consumer law since 2003, according to research by consumer group Which?

The group claimed its analysis shows that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should be given enhanced powers to crack down on carriers that fail to give passengers the refunds and compensation they are entitled to.

Which? said that since the CAA was granted regulatory powers to seek enforcement orders in 2003, no airline has been fined in the UK.

Only one application for such action has been made in that time, which was against Ryanair in 2018 over an allegation that the carrier it refused to compensate passengers for delays caused by industrial action by its staff. That case has yet to be heard in court.

08:02 AM

More long-haul destinations must be removed from quarantine list, says travel expert

While an increasing number of longer-haul destinations get ready to welcome back tourists, many are yet to be added to the UK’s travel ‘green list’.

Paul Charles, travel expert and the CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, says:

It’s vital to see more long-haul destinations being removed from the quarantine list as case numbers fall – the likes of Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Rwanda are candidates for now being exempt and turned “green”. The travel sector is being badly hurt by the lack of long-haul options available. These countries have exceptional healthcare facilities for international visitors and have done a good job of managing down Covid-19 case numbers.

We need the UK government to roll-out a clear traveller testing plan – now is the time to introduce a combination of checking for negative test certificates on arrival into the UK and secondary tests just five days later. This would be the biggest fillip to the sector alongside relaxing FCDO non-essential travel advice.

07:58 AM

What happened yesterday? 

  • New rules could put trips to Italy and Greece off the menu for Irish holidaymakers

  • Jet2.com has added more flights to Turkey to cope with rising demand

  • Finland is to ease restrictions on UK tourists in November

  • Mexico has reopened its famous Mayan ruins

  • Singapore Airlines is offering ‘flights to nowhere’

​Now onto today’s news

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