Do we keep travelling as if nothing has happened?
Chalkmarks: Ireland gears up for a Brexit bonanza of UK travellers in 2021

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 11th March 2022

Instead of questions about Covid, holidaymakers are asking about Russia and the war in Ukraine. Two weeks into the invasion and answers are still uncertain.
Predictions are difficult to make. No one knows how rapidly the conflict will progress, or if it will escalate – but priorities are shifting daily. The response from much of the world has been clear with governments imposing sanctions on Russia, and global companies pulling out their operations.
Everyone’s minds are on Ukraine with the terrifying headlines, the air raid sirens, bombed hospitals and dying civilians.
So far there has been little information from the travel industry, which was hoping for a year of recovery after the pandemic, but there are hard times ahead. Instability there is felt over here. Bookings to central and eastern Europe are down by up to 50 per cent. Travellers are canceling trips to Krakow because going to Poland doesn’t feel right as it takes in 1.3 million refugees. 
What does it means for travel? Here’s what made the headlines this week.

Is it safe to travel right now?

In Whitehall: The Foreign Office has recommended against travel to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the eastern border region of Moldova.

Impact of sanctions: The rouble has plummeted. In January £1 bought ₽100, today it buys ₽175 making international travel for Russians incredibly expensive.

Day 16: Aeroflot flew one of its last international flights on Tuesday from Cancun, Mexico, to Moscow – captured by Flightradar24. The Russian airline will now operate mainly domestic flights and one route to Minsk, Belarus. Having flown to 53 countries in February, the affect of sanctions has seen that drop to 25. Railway Gazette reported that the International Union of Railways has suspended Russian Railways. This breaks a significant transport link from China to Europe. The closure of airspace means airlines are not flying over Russia or Ukraine, which results in longer flying times between Europe and Asia. Some carriers are heading north over Alaska while others divert across Turkey.

Gateway: Data experts at Forward Keys have named Belgrade, Serbia, the new “gateway to Russia”. For those wanting to travel to Moscow or St Petersburg, UK passengers need only to take a flight from London to Belgrade – then pick up a connecting flight with an airline still flying into Russia. Remember though that Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have pulled out of Russia, which will make it hard to pay for things.

Surrounding countries: The invasion is turning into an emergency for nearby countries taking in refugees. The Daily Telegraph reported how holidaymakers have started cancelling their trips to the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The Independent’s Simon Calder wrote how flights to eastern Europe were down by up to 50 per cent. Some of the destinations affected include Bulgaria, Croatia,Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Hard times ahead: The impact of the conflict is being felt around the world. Reuters explains how the long hoped for travel recovery is about to take a nose dive.

Expensive flights: The question isn’t if this will happen, but when. We are about to see flights get more expensive – and the worry is that this will put people off travelling this year. Oil prices have soared; already petrol has hit £1.60 a litre; and fuel rises will make flying expensive especially with many airlines rerouting around Russian and Ukrainian airspace. The Financial Times forecasts that transport costs will soar.

Already: Scottish airline Loganair became the first UK carrier to introduce fuel surcharges.  On Thursday, The Scotsman reported the airline was adding £3.95 to flights on tickets brought from 21st March. Its boss Jonathan Hinkles said: “We’ve realistically no option but to introduce a fuel surcharge.” Expect to hear much more on this in the weeks to come.

Women’s work: To celebrate International Women’s Day on Tuesday, the International Air Transport Association said there was still a very long way to go in the aviation industry with just 6 per cent of airlines with a female CEO. Meanwhile the Times Travel compiled a list of women-led tours and experiences.

Spread the word: Which? warned us this week which travel scams to be looking out for, including fake calls from fraudsters posing as airlines and asking for bank details to offer a refund. Another one doing the rounds is being asked to pay for passenger locator forms, which are free. The magazine also shared tips on how to save a few quid when booking a holiday this year. 

Go green: Our favourite Emerald Isle neighbour has officially dropped all its remaining Covid travel restrictions. This means no more passenger locator forms, no proof of vaccine status and no tests. On Saturday, Irish health minister Stephen Donnelly announced he had removed these last requirements. And with St Patrick’s day next Thursday – back after two long years – it’s the perfect time to pop across the sea. In our opinion a visit to Dublin is always a good idea – plus visiting the Guinness Storehouse, Temple Bar…and why not follow the trail of the smaller parades around Ireland. Dublin Live gives us this year’s parade details. Here is a fast recap from 2017.

Reasons for optimism: Gatwick said it is expecting 3 million passengers a month this summer. Having released its annual results on Wednesday the airport said it anticipates a “strong and successful summer” due to the reopening of its south terminal and airlines launching new short-haul routes. Its boss Stewart Wingate, said: “I urge Government to make 2022 the year when all travel restrictions are removed completely, including the unpopular passenger locator form.”  

Guess what: England looks set to draw a line under passenger locator forms on 18 March. More next week. The Daily Telegraph told us how other countries were ahead of the game. Greece announced it was dropping the forms on 15th March and Belgium ends the red tape today, Friday 11th March.

Grand design: HS2 revealed its vaulted gold…or is it bronze, roof-top design for Euston station this week. The original station opened in 1837 but was rebuilt in the 1960s. This latest transformation is key to the government’s £100 billion high-speed rail project – designed to connect London to cities in the North and the Midlands. The controversial project was due to begin opening in 2026 but has been pushed back with a completion date around 2040. Designed to allow in natural light, architect Declan McCafferty, said the computer-generated images appear “either bronze or gold…”

High life: Manchester is creating what it hopes will become a must-see destination, transforming an historic stretch of railway into an urban park area. Taking its cue from New York’s High Line it’s hoped the planted Castlefield Viaduct will become a new ritual for visitors to the city. The Manchester Evening News reported that costing £1.8 million, the National Trust’s 330m green pathway is set to open in July.

Bye bye: Some said it was the worst thing they’d seen in London and others that they thought it’d been hit by a storm. It’s the infamous Marble Arch Mound that cost Westminster City Council £6 million. Opened in July 2021 to attract people back to the West End, all it brought was posts on social media about how ugly it was. The latest expensive saga is that the 25 metre hill is being dismantled – and still it’s being mocked. Ian Visits shared the latest pictures.

Safe travels

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