Holiday hotspots: The arrivals and departures!
Chalkmarks: Lisbon, Portugal

Good afternoon. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 4th February 2022

Welcome to another week of what’s making the travel headlines. Just after news broke that all testing was being scrapped in the UK, there was a surge in bookings. What’s amazing is how fast things are moving. Research by Compare the Market revealed that almost one in three have already booked a holiday for 2022. It’s extraordinary: the British and their love of travel. This week the papers were sprinkled with updates and launches, which we round up here so you don’t miss a thing.

The post-pandemic blowout

On your masks: Remember back in those olden tymes when we travelled on planes without masks? It’s hard to think that far back now…but face coverings are here to stay. Everyone onboard all flights must wear a mask. The Times brought us the news that airlines will “act as one” – to remove the restriction globally when the time is right – rather than individual carriers or countries following their own rules, making it confusing for everyone. 

Flight price war: Boss Michael O’Leary at Ryanair said the airline would be dropping prices to get bums on seats this spring and summer to make back the money lost during the pandemic. But in a bid to win bookings, there are already plenty of sweet deals this week. Wizz Air is offering 20 per cent off and Jet2, 10 per cent off.

New York, New York: Iceland’s low-cost airline Play announced a new route from London Stansted to New York Stewart International for just £159. That’s one way. All flights go via Reykjavik, which they hope will encourage travellers to extend their trip to Iceland. The £159 offer is introductory and available only until Monday (7th February). The first flight departs on Friday 10th June. The US currently welcomes double-jabbed travellers with a negative PCR test on arrival.

Plane talking: On Monday Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told us he wants airlines to treat passengers with “with fairness and respect”. After the chaos that kicked off at the start of the pandemic when flights were cancelled leaving holidaymakers stranded and out of pocket, this could help rebuild some trust. We reported on this travel nightmare which left the reputation of travel firms in tatters

The consultation begins: Mr Shapps is proposing a new compensation system – similar to that used by train and ferry companies – whereby passengers are refunded for late running services. PA Media told us some of the proposals being considered: if a flight is delayed for less than two hours, passengers would receive 25 per cent of their ticket price back; for a delay of less than three hours, it would be 50 per cent; and for a delay of more than three hours, airlines would have to repay 100 per cent of the ticket price. Watch this space!

Meanwhile at Which? Ryanair was named the worst airline for “difficult” customer service in its latest Which? customer survey. British Airways’ popularity also plummeted, coming in second to last place. Jet2 received the highest score.

Speaking of BA: The snacks are back. To help improve its image British Airways said it’s bringing back complimentary food and drink on its short-haul flights. Metro.co.uk brought us the words from BA boss Sean Doyle, who told customers: “You’ve also told us you appreciate the complimentary water and snacks we’ve been offering on short-haul flights in our Euro Traveller cabin, so we’ll be continuing with these too. I’m not seeking to make excuses for things that should have gone better. What I am doing is making a personal commitment to you that we will build a better British Airways.”

Also in the news this week: If you’re planning on Channel hopping this year to say Bonjour to France, security is being stepped up. The Guardian Travel reported that armed police will be patrolling British ferries, as they are considered the weak link in “policing transport”, with passengers typically waved through. Although ferries are now regarded “vulnerable” to terror attacks, there is no specific threat at the moment. How relaxing is that?

And on France: On Thursday we woke to news from The Daily Mail that France will refuse entry to double-jabbed Britons with immediate effect. Having updated its vaccination travel rules, it means only those who are double jabbed and have had the booster can go.

Wish you were here: Norway scrapped many of its Covid restrictions this week with travel testing dropped but masks still mandatory on public transport. Denmark went further becoming the first country in the EU to lift most of it restrictions, including the end of mask wearing. The government said it no longer considered coronavirus “a socially critical disease,” AP reported.

Escape north: With travel rules expected to remain in place across France, Spain and Italy for some time, swap the Med, head north to Scandinavia, try the Arctic Circle, where the hottest things are the beaches. We tried it. Say freeze!

Selling sunshine: The breaking news on Reuters last night was that Portugal had scrapped PCR travel testing – although there was no further detail when this would come into effect. At just over a two-hour flight from the UK, you can easily combine a city break with a beach holiday. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and you don’t even have to change your clock – we’re in the same time zone. Must eat here and more reasons to visit.

More from Which?: Terrible, dirty and terrible again! These were just some of the words used to describe the Britannia hotel, which Which? named the UK’s worst hotel. This is an accolade it has won eight times previously. Premium Inn was voted one of the best.

Travel Wispa: The Dairy Milk, the Creme Eggs, the Crunchie bar – I could go on. This week we heard that theme park experts Merlin Entertainments, which runs Alton Towers and Legoland are taking over one of the country’s most famous chocolate factories. Ahead of Cadbury’s 200 year anniversary in 2023, I expect big plans are cooking. Which are your favourites?

What’s on: Are you free on Saturday 12th March? This is the date the Coronation Street behind-the-scenes tours restart – after closing for two years during the pandemic. This juicy soap gossip of the week came from OK Magazine. Tickets for the iconic set tours start from £35.

Also coming up: Guinness is opening a micro-brewery in London in the autumn of 2023 at Old Brewer’s Yard in Covent Garden. The tourist attraction will be similar to the must-see Guinness Store House at St James’s Gate in Dublin, with a tours, a restaurant and plenty of stout on tap.

New tour guide: We are used to seeing Sir Patrick Vallance at the Downing Street press conference alongside the Prime Minister updating the nation on the Covid-19 pandemic. Now the UK’s chief scientific adviser has taken on another role – at the Natural History Museum – the place that inspired him to become a scientist when he was a child. We await to see what adventures he will bring.

Happy Chinese New Year of the Tiger!

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