From beach breaks to adventure and faraway escapes, the January sales are on!
Chalkmarks: Lake Geneva, Lausanne, Switzerland. Credit Mike Lesley

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 13th January 2023

It may be chilly here (even in Switzerland, see above) but it’s hot online, with holidays flying off the shelves especially to the Canary and the Balearic islands. Of all the questions we get asked: where to go is number one. Of course the Chalkmarks archive is a fantastic travel department filled with ideas. So for a holiday brag why not try Norway and head into the Arctic Circle. Perhaps blow the budget and head on a safari in South Africa. Or be on trend and jet away to Palawan in the Philippines, regularly voted a Number One island on the planet.
This week we have set ourselves the goal of booking our travel for the year. We’ve been on the look out for some real deals and we think we’ve found some…watch this space! For now, let’s get into this week’s travel headlines.

Yes, confirm!

Holidaymakers will never forget: Families sleeping at airports, delays, cancellations, luggage lost and the battle for a refund. These were the headlines that made front page news last year. We reported on it here. During the past few years travellers have realised how far down the value-chain they are for airlines. This week Which? found that 39 per cent of passengers lack confidence they would be treated fairly if something went wrong. The consumer group warned that “repeated failures” indicates “a systemic problem” that needs to be fixed.

Open and shut case: Which? is calling on the government to hand more power to the Civil Aviation Authority to take on the airlines.” Rocio Concha from Which? said: “The Transport Secretary must urgently set out plans to equip the aviation regulator with greater enforcement powers so it can properly hold airlines to account when they mistreat passengers and neglect their legal responsibilities.”

On board: Paul Smith at the CAA said: “We have regularly asked for stronger consumer enforcement powers, including the ability to impose fines on airlines.”

A world away: A DfT spokesman said: “Our Aviation Passenger Charter provides passengers with information on their rights, and we have consulted on a range of measures to improve passenger protections, including greater powers for the CAA.” 

Give us a break: The pandemic may be over but many of us are still not loving the idea of travelling on board a plane in case we catch Covid. The cost of tickets is putting others off from heading overseas. These are the two big factors that still hold many back from flying according to a survey of 3,500 by the Civil Aviation Authority. Interestingly, they found that it was older travellers who were worried about Covid and younger passengers who had budget issues. The Independent has the story.

On the bright side: Regardless of the results of any recent poll or survey, the fact is holidays are selling like hot cakes. Amazingly, during these first two weeks of January bookings have surged. No one understands it. It’s a blip. Last weekend we saw what’s known as Sunshine Saturday, the most popular day of the year to book a trip. easyJet announced its best sales day ever. And where were holiday-hungry Britons booking? The top three faves were Tenerife, Palma and Lanzarote for beach holidays; and Amsterdam, Paris and Iceland for city breaks. easyJet boss Garry Wilson said: “With the cost of living still very much at the top of the agenda, what we’re seeing is that people are still prioritising holidays. We expect demand will continue”. Trade mag TTG has more.

Predictably: One more thing costing more this year is getting a passport. From Thursday, 2nd February the price will increase to £82.50, up from £75.50. If you use the postal application the cost goes up to £93 from £85. That adds up to an inflationary 9 per cent increase to us! The Passport Office says it makes no profit from passport applications.

Zooming out: 2022 was a great year for Heathrow it turns out, as the airport announced it saw the largest increase in passengers of any European airport. It was used by 61.6 million flyers last year, compared to 19.4 million in 2021. As the airport published it’s annual traffic stats, it also revealed its most popular destination was New York – where we love to shop. Did we mention that before?

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!

Feel at home: Malta is like being in the UK but with the heat turned up. Valletta, the capital, has proudly kept its red post boxes, everyone speaks English, they drive on the left, and best of all they use British plugs. No wonder hundreds of us visit each year. News of any of this had never reached us so it was like a welcome homecoming on a weekend city break – only with better food, weather and beaches. It might be just a tiny dot in the middle of the Mediterranean but for sightseeing and shopping it more than punches above its weight. Here’s where to start.

The dragon awakes: China reopened its borders on Sunday ending three years of zero-Covid restrictions. It means travellers no longer have to quarantine on arrival. The data people at ForwardKeys tweeted the travel industry was “immediately excited”. To celebrate, Chinese holidaymakers have swung into full holiday mode with hundreds of thousands travelling to see family and friends, mainly within China. Can we go? For Britons, we have to apply for a visa. Chinese travellers are highly valuable to the holidays industry due to the huge numbers of travellers and their spend on luxury goods. Their return to international travel could be slow however as Covid cases are currently high in China, which has led to many nations, including the UK, requiring a negative PCR test on departure, and a voluntary test on arrival. Also, their return to the UK may be further delayed as we reported how the UK is considered an unsafe country for Chinese travellers. Olivier Ponti, at ForwardKeys, said: “We will need to wait longer before we see a resurgence in Chinese tourists exploring the globe.”

Bad day at work: On Wednesday just after midday (UK time), the US grounded all flights across the country after their communication system – NOTAM – used by pilots to access flight plans failed. There was early speculation this was a cyberattack, but it was no more than a computer glitch – aka human error caused by a corrupted database file – which delayed 10,000 flights. Thankfully by 2pm, the issue had been resolved. A senior official told ABC News said: “It was an honest mistake that cost the country millions.” The BBC followed the story.

Off the radar: Low-cost airline Wizz Air will stop flying from Cardiff Airport. Its final flights to Bucharest, Romania, and Milan, Italy, will end on 25th January. It promises to issue refunds to affected flyers. The Welsh government said the move was “surprising”. Airlines TUI, Vueling, Ryanair and KLM will continue operating from the airport. The BBC had the full report.

Up in Scotland: Don’t miss staying at No. 26 By The Sea in Oban, Argyll and Bute, which has been listed one of the top 25 hottest hotels on the planet. Guests on Tripadvisor say the boutique hotel is a “sensation” and “perfection”. Rooms in Oban are booked up for January and February but if you can book for March, they start from £250 a night. The Daily Record shared the news.

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Airport for lunch?

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