Air we go! Ryanair orders 300 planes to fly holidaymakers to north Africa and the Middle East
Chalkmarks: The Beatles statues, Liverpool Waterfront, England

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 12th May 2023

Rail strikes restart today, EU expected to delay border checks and the big family holiday is back! Welcome to your fact-packed, must-read weekly travel round-up…

Here comes spring (maybe)!

At the airport: Ryanair announced on Tuesday it had ordered 300 brand new Boeing 737 Max jets as it sets its sights on flying holidaymakers to north Africa and the Middle East. The wallet-busting deal is worth £32 million but the airline can afford to splurge as it predicts passenger numbers will grow from 168 million, today, to 300 million by March 2034. The larger aircraft will have 228 seats compared to the current 215 and are due to arrive from 2027. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said he had “no interest” in flying to the US but he was focusing on expanding out of Europe. “We’re growing strongly in neighbouring countries to Europe: Morocco, Israel, Jordan, we’re looking at Egypt,” he said. “I think the biggest prize we’re looking at is Ukraine. “We will go back in there within two weeks of it being declared safe by the European authorities.” BBC News had the story.

Other trains are not available: Two days of rail strikes start today. Expect lots of disruption across the country and that includes shuttle services to airports. If you’re trying to get from A to B, the Independent has all the details.

Bad timing: Birmingham Airport was named the UK’s worst for its 30 minute flight delays. It took the accolade after scenes of queues and chaos at check-in and security last year. Ranked by the Civil Aviation, it was also named the worst for delays the previous year. On Tuesday, the airport boss reassured passengers there was no need to worry this year and everything was “running smoothly”. A spokesman said: ‘This year, the first since 2020 not impacted by Covid, our airport is running smoothly with customers set to equal or exceed pre-pandemic numbers. Customers using Birmingham airport this summer can expect changes to walking routes as we build our £40 million new security hall, set to be ready for June 2024.” The survey revealed Manchester came in second for poor punctuality, with an average 29 minute delay, Luton (28 minutes) came third, Gatwick (27 minutes) fourth and Bristol (26 minutes) fifth. East Midlands airport was the winner, with an average delay of just 13 minutes in 2022. Here’s more on Birmingham Live.

What we reported last year: Airport waiting times are long, and look set to remain that way well into the summer. Birmingham and Manchester airports came under the spotlight this week. The view from Twitter showed jam-packed queues at check-in and security. Back in the good old days – BC (before Covid) – it all worked so well, but during the pandemic thousands of staff were let go when travel shut down. Airport bosses say they are recruiting again but that training and security checks take time. Why weren’t they ready? Birmingham Airport ran queues outside the terminal to free up space inside. They said the queues were “managed and moving”, adding “of the 7,500 customers booked to fly out of BHX in today’s dawn peak, 99.7% successfully caught their flights. Anyone who missed was rebooked”. Manchester told passengers to arrive three hours early. MEN had the details.

Good timing: The Guardian had a scoop on Tuesday claiming that the EU’s planned passport checks for Britons entering Europe “is not going to happen”, this year at least. Scenes of holidaymakers trapped in coaches for 14-hours at Dover over Easter has spooked authorities and industry bodies. Since Brexit, Britons need their passport physically stamped when entering the EU – and this is taking more time than expected. There are plans to introduce wider checks that include fingerprinting and pictures being taken – part of the EU’s Entry Exit System (EES) – due to start in November. Pre-empting an EU meeting in June to discuss the issue, an unnamed source said the rollout of EES could be pushed back to 2024 over concerns it could disrupt the Paris Olympics. They said: “The only question is whether the enrolment will be pushed back until spring 2024, or until after the Olympics in July and August in Paris. There is an EU meeting on 9 June and we are hoping there will be confirmation from there that it is being pushed back to 2024 … That is what everyone is waiting to find out.” 

All-inclusive holidays: The big family holiday is back – and that includes trips with mum, dad, and even nana and grandad. Cash-strapped adult children are booking summer holidays this year with their parents to keep costs down. According to the survey commissioned by Starling Bank, two-fifths (42%) of adults are planning trips with their parents and 14 per cent with their grandparents. In some cases mum and dad are picking up the bill. What could possibly go wrong? And where are they going? Spain, France and Italy top the list. The research also revealed the average spend is £2,671. That’s the full package. 

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Italy, yes please! How about slowing down in Sardinia or nibbling bite-sized treats on a city break to BolognaSicily? This is the largest island in the Mediterranean and the biggest region in Italy. It’s home to many of Europe’s volcanoes – Etna being the biggest, Vulcano the stinkiest and Stromboli one of the most active on earth. The Valley of the Temples is older than the Acropolis in Athens. The Aeolian islands are outrageously stunning but so few tourists make it there. And if all this is not enough, Palermo has the best pizza on the planet and in Catania they eat ice (granita) for breakfast. Irresistible! Watch this to find out where to start.

Le train: The Eurotunnel Le Shuttle was mocked on Twitter this week after it shared its new name: LeShuttle. It’s pure Emily in Paris marketing genius. It’s dropped the word Eurotunnel to avoid confusion with the Eurostar and unveiled a swish, elegant monochrome logo. But some thought the rebranding was pretty funny. The Man in Seat 61 tweeted: “Just when you didn’t think your day could get any more exciting, you learn that Eurotunnel’s Le Shuttle has rebranded as – wait for it – LeShuttle…” Another said: “They must have spotted a gap in the market.” One more: “Are they trying to imply they don’t have any space any more?”. In case you don’t speak French, Le Shuttle translates as The Shuttle…the same as err, before. Drop the mic!

Sacre bleu: And in another rebranding this week, the iconic National Express coach company has been renamed Mobico. Famous for their distinct white coaches with the red and blue logo that you see up whizzing up and down the motorways, the coach firm, which only celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022, wants to reflect its global aspirations. Boss Ignacio Garat told the FT: “Whilst National Express is a highly valued consumer brand, Mobico better represents our multi-modal operations, global reach and future ambitions.”

An inconvenient truth: Just when you thought you enjoyed being outdoors, along comes the science to back it up. According to a survey 48 per cent of people, who set up tents and go camping, feel happy almost every single day, compared to 35 per cent of us who don’t camp. And there’s more, their mental health is better too. The study by the Outjoyment Report was put out ahead of National Camping and Caravanning Week that starts on Monday 29th May. See you in the woods! MailOnline had the story.

This time last year: Back of the queue: Airports continue to frustrate with long holiday hold ups! The Queen missed the State Opening of Parliament, and the Wagatha Christie trial had us gripped … We had a meeting with our travel agent (Google) to book a trip to the UK’s tourist hotspot Bath … With 2022 being the year of the holiday it soon also became the year of airport chaos … The advice was to arrive early and be ready to go through security … Tui advised passengers to bring their own food … We’d helpfully recommended a scotch egg, potato salad plus some good cake … Tui also warned there would be no last-minute cheap deals as most had sold out … Greece was its most popular destination, followed by the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands and Turkey … Across the EU, the requirement to wear a face mask on flights and in airports was lifted … The most complained about UK tourist attraction was Stonehenge in Wiltshire … Prince Harry started travel company Travalyst, which rates holidaymakers on how sustainable they are.

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Happy Eurovision!

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