Use them or lose them: Air travellers told to book now with vouchers for cancelled Covid flights
Chalkmarks: Christ Church, Oxford University, England

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 29th April 2022
(This week we’re in cloudy Oxford – hooray!)

Now for some good news: It’s Friday, it’s another Bank Holiday weekend and, I finally made it to Oxford. We’re not making it up – we’re here for the weekend! At least 28 former prime minsters are fans of this place and 13 went to Christ Church (pictured above), so we figured they must be right, and we needed to visit this university city.
We’re following in their footsteps, walking down the medieval cobbled streets and exploring the old colleges and taking a peek inside. Then like a true scholar we’ll have a pint in the Bear Inn, which dates back to 1242, and listen out for the bells to toll at 9.05pm before bed. Genius!
Without further ado here’s this week’s travel news from stories that made front page headlines.

Poolside plans

Want a holiday: The travel data shows that thousands of people have not yet redeemed their flight tickets following cancelled holidays from two years ago at the start of the pandemic. This was when the travel industry shut down and the government warned against non-essential travel. This week the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (Atol) said there was £85m locked up in unspent credit notes. It has launched a campaign to ensure holidaymakers use them before 30 September 2022 – or they risk losing their Atol protection. They advise travellers to either make a booking asap or request a cash refund for the credit notes.

Sailing ahead: Celebrity Cruises took centre stage this week as it launched its biggest and most luxurious cruise ship, Beyond, in the UK. The liner sailed out of Southampton with horns blaring and ceremonial jets blasting water as crowds waved from the dock. Beyond marks the company’s cruising comeback since the pandemic, and signals the start of the cruising season in Europe. This is first class travel on a boat: Expect Michelin-starred food, West End-style entertainment, plenty of cocktail bars, and of course sea views. Is this the best ship in the world? We went on board for a sneak preview.

Passport shambles: The Times front page on Tuesday alerted us to a huge backlog at the Passport Office in dealing with passport applications and renewals. The 10-week target is being missed – with one woman who waited more than five months for her daughter’s passport. The fear is that families will come under pressure to pay the £100 extra per passport to get them fast tracked for holidays booked this summer. PM Boris Johnson said he would “privatise the arse” out of the Passport Office. We don’t think he meant it!

A belter: In response Home Office minister Kevin Foster advised people wanting to take a summer holiday to get their applications in as soon as possible. He said they had seen an “unprecedented surge in demand” with a million applications last month, compared with seven million per year before the pandemic.

What happened next: The Independent reported that the fast-track service website had crashed as holidaymakers tried to speed up their applications.

Passport to freedom: If you’re stuck in the backlog Simon Calder explained the rules and your rights if you’ve been turned away from boarding a flight. First, your passport must be less than 10 years old. If it’s reaching the expiry date, it must have at least three months remaining from the day you plan on returning to the UK.

Yet more flights cancelled: More disappointment came this week for passengers booked on British Airways flights. Why? The airline has cut more flights from its schedule up until the end of June as it struggles with staff shortages. It didn’t say how many flights but it will affect those with lower passenger numbers that have multiple flights a day. The Financial Times reported that airline boss Sean Doyle said that trimming services was “crucial…to give our customers confidence about their upcoming trips.”

No tests: I repeat no pre-departure tests are required for Singapore. If you’ve not yet thought of travelling long-haul, the latest from the tiny city state at the bottom of Malaysia is that the sun is shining and the temperature is 28C. But go also for the good food in the hawker centres that were recently added to Unesco’s list of global “cultural treasures”. Here is the lowdown. The Independent reported that testing for vaccinated travellers was scrapped on Tuesday. It also provided a list of countries where a test is still required – including the US.

Make tracks: The government’s Great British Rail Sale comes to an end this weekend. Many deals have already gone but you have until Monday night (2nd May) to pick up a half-price rail ticket. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted that more than 850,000 of the 1,000,000 tickets had already been snapped up.

Join the party: Plans were announced this week that Ed Sheeran would headline a concert outside Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee during the long bank holiday weekend in June. A carnival, around two miles long, will take place down the Mall on the last day of the four-day celebration. On Sunday 5th June the Jubilee Pageant will be split into four acts with hundreds of horses on parade, an aerial artist under a helium balloon and end with Sheeran and other celebrities taking to the stage in the evening. The Mail+ had all the details.

Into the blue!

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