Airports, airlines and cruises in record post-pandemic boom
Chalkmarks: French onion soup, Le Michel's, Bordeaux, France, February 2024

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 23rd February 2024

WHILE you were sleeping we were heading to the airport. We’re on a super early flight from Gatwick to Bordeaux, which btw means on the border of water aka the land of castles and red wine. We won’t land in time for a breakfast of oysters and Champagne but we will be there for a vin rouge lunch (see above). On the very empty BA plane we conduct a highly scientific survey of the main types of wine we drink. The embargoed results – just released – are thus: 30 per cent red, 10 per cent white, 30 rose and 30 per cent fizz. We also like sangria, a spritz, Kir royale, a calimocho, and a mulled wine in the winter months. Heck, maybe we need a new poll? We’ll think about it on the trip back. Shhhhh now, it’s time for sleepies before we land. While we rest, here’s this week’s travel headlines. Santé mes amis!

Hello sun!

Reaching new heights: Heathrow is back in profit for the first time in four years – that’s since the pandemic. Reuters reported the airport made £38 million in 2023. As well as expecting a record 81.4 million passengers in 2024 (compared to 80.9 million in 2019), airport boss Thomas Woldbye says building a third runway will soon be back on the agenda, with updated expansion plans out soon.

Also soaring: Aussie airline Qantas has made £1 billion ($1.25billion) half-year, pre-tax profit, which is way above pre-pandemic levels. It comes in the first year of its new boss Vanessa Hudson, who took the helm in 2023 following criticism of high ticket prices, lost luggage and cancellations post-pandemic. The Guardian has the story.

They just keep coming: The Royal Caribbean has seen a record number of cruise sales in the first five weeks of 2024 – its best performance in its history! It comes weeks after it launched Icon of the Seas – the largest cruise ship in the world – to huge fanfare in Miami. Royal Caribbean also owns Celebrity Cruises, which Chalkmarks thinks is the best ship ever, after we went to the Back of Beyond and all decks in between.

The key to relax: The holiday experts at Which? have crunched the numbers to discover a cottage holiday in County Durham, Cumbria and Mid Wales can cost up to £600 less than staying in pricey Cornwall. It found that a stay in the southwest cost £1,145 a week, whereas seven nights in County Durham or nearby Tyne and Wear was just about £512. So, instead of costly regions such as the Cotswolds, South Wales, Dorset and Oxfordshire, opt for a stay in Glasgow and The Clyde Valley, County Durham/Tyne and Wear, Staffordshire.

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!

Looking for a room with a view? On Wednesday London’s empty BT Tower sold for £275 million to be turned into a luxury hotel. Bought by American group MCR Hotels, which owns 150 hotels mainly in the US, the Grade-II listed tower built in 1965, became a restaurant in 1971 with a revolving top floor, but closed in the 80s. It’ll now be reimagined by British architect Thomas Heatherwick who created the new London Routemaster and the 2012 Olympic torch. News of the sale was splashed across the Evening Standard.

On the move: Hitting the road like a rock ’n’ roll band is artwork from the Tate’s network of art galleries. Expect to see Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can and the work of 21 other artists including Damien Hurst, David Hockney and Fernand Leger all being pulled along in a trailer across the Midlands and the North. The Soup, Socks and Spiders exhibition is on tour for 12 weeks – ending on Saturday 11th May. The BBC has more. 

Make some noise: Bookings have opened early for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. The first batch of tickets are on sale now for all 276 shows across 31 venues in the Scottish capital. With a new motto “to give anyone a stage and everyone a seat”, the organisers have put tickets out early to help finance the festival, and to allow the acts plenty of time to promote their shows. 

This time last year: Costa lot: One-week summer holiday prices soar and flights up 71 per cent! Consumer experts at Which? revealed the cost of travel had gone up by hundreds of pounds … They found a week in Greece had gone up the most, costing £200 more than in 2022. In 2023 it’s £867 … Flights to Greece and Italy had also increased – up 71 per cent on 2022 … Fares to France had risen 45 per cent and to Spain by 38 per cent … On long-haul, a flight to the US cost on average £1,527 – that’s £350 more expensive than 2022 … For a cheaper getaway – but still more expensive than last year – Portugal offered good deals … Also, there was more from the consumer champs with Wizz Air named the worst short-haul airline, earning just one-star for its overall service … The world-famous Flying Scotsman turned 100 … Dippy the dinosaur was on the move again, this time to the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry for the next three years.

In case you don’t follow us on social media you really should. Here we are, here too and over here. Say hola muchacha! 

Good night moon!

Write to us and send in your travel tips