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Travel news – live: Turkey, Maldives and South Africa ‘should leave red list’, as UK-Australia flights on sale

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As UK travellers wait to see what changes the government will make to the “traffic light” system, The Independent’s travel correspondent Simon Calder has made his predictions.

“The UK’s travel restrictions make us a laughing stock abroad – but they are also crippling airlines and holiday firms.

“Assuming the leaks are correct and the whole ludicrous system is to be dismantled, the industry will naturally be relieved – but will also demand to know why the government made going abroad so difficult for so long.

“The current restrictions aren’t just making holidaymakers jumpy about booking – they are also destroying inbound tourism to the UK, and hundreds of thousands of jobs with it.

“The red list is way too long. Travel to almost a third of the world’s countries requires thousands of pounds spent on 11 nights in a hotel room on arrival.

Expert analysts concur that Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Dominican Republic, the Maldives, South Africa and Turkey should be taken off the red list. But as the government has shown many times, it can deliver wildly different conclusions.”

In other news, Qantas has scheduled flights between London and Sydney and London and Melbourne from 18 December.

Follow the latest travel news below:

Read More

Red list: Which countries could be taken off when travel system changes?

When is the next UK travel update?

What will replace the traffic light travel system?

Key points

  • UK’s restrictions ‘make us a laughing stock’ - Simon Calder

  • Qantas will resume Lon-Aus flights if quarantine is eased, says exec

  • Airlines and travel firms face millions in claims after applying wrong passport rules

Airbus A380s mostly idle around the world, new data show

16:36 , Simon Calder

The Airbus A380 has become a rarity at the world’s airports. Only one in six of the giant, double-deck passenger jets is actually in active service, according to operational data from the analysts Cirium.

As of yesterday, there were only 43 active “SuperJumbo” jet out of a total of 243 – just 17.7 per cent.

In 2019 only eight A380s were in storage – today the total is 200, which is 25 times higher.

The number of A380 flights scheduled to fly in the month of September has slumped even further: 1,150 in 2021 compared with 9,991 scheduled in September 2019 – an 88 per cent drop.

Since 2016, only eight A380s have been officially retired, according to Cirium’s fleet data.

Emirates of Dubai is by far the largest user of the aircraft type.

Airlines including Air France have said the giant plane will not be returning to their fleets.

One-way trip: an Air France A380 before the coronavirus pandemic (Matthew Purton)
One-way trip: an Air France A380 before the coronavirus pandemic (Matthew Purton)

Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport gets new testing facility

15:53 , Lucy Thackray

A new “state-of-the-art” Covid testing laboratory has opened at Liverpool’s John Lennon airport.

The onsite laboratory offers passengers a “Fit to Fly” testing service with a three-hour turnaround, in addition to standard 24-hour testing.

It aims to eradicate “unclear” and lost test results and has been designed to perform 500 tests per day, but can be increased to handle 1,000 tests or more.

The news comes as bosses from Gatwick and Heathrow Airports call on the government to scrap testing for double vaccinated travellers.

Stewart Wingate, the CEO of Gatwick Airport, last week described existing travel restrictions as “out of step”.

Read the full story:

Liverpool Airport gets ‘state-of-the-art’ Covid testing facility

Vietnam will start phased reopening to tourists in October

15:26 , Lucy Thackray

Vietnam has announced plans to welcome tourists back to the country from October.

The Southeast Asian country will operate a phased reopening, starting with the popular holiday island of Phu Quoc.

Initially, only travellers who are double vaccinated against Covid will be permitted entry for non-essential reasons.

In addition, only tourists who have booked a package holiday from an approved travel agency will be allowed to visit.

Travellers will also be required to present a negative Covid test result taken within 72 hours of arrival and proof of both health and travel insurance.

Read the full story:

Vietnam to start phased reopening to tourists in October

Mystery bags: Swiss offers unsold food at two-thirds discount on last flights of day

13:57 , Lucy Thackray

What do airline do with unsold food at the end of the day? Chuck it away, usually.

But Swiss is experimenting with cutting prices on the last flights of the day from Geneva by two-thirds – using a technique previously employed by Ryanair and Great Western Railway.

Intriguingly, passengers will know what exactly they are getting until they have paid.

On flights, a cabin crew announcement is made offering a bag containing “one, two or three such fresh food items at one third of their usual price”.

The bag’s contents are not revealed in advance, and remain a surprise for the purchaser.

Full story here:

Airline food sold off cheaply on last flight of the day to cut waste

Sign up to Simon Calder’s free weekly newsletter

13:04 , Lucy Thackray

In last week’s newsletter, our travel expert Simon Calder tackled what he calls the UK government’s “zero tourism strategy”.

“Some say the UK lacks a strategy for international tourism. Nonsense: ministers clearly have a “zero tourism” strategy,” wrote Calder.

“Why else would vaccinated visitors from low-infection Germany be treated with deep medical suspicion?

“While you and I can enjoy a weekend in Munich or Leipzig with no more stress than presenting proof of vaccination on arrival at the flughafen, jabbed Germans keen on a short break in Manchester or London must take multiple tests at a typical cost of €100 (£86) – quite possibly more than the cost of flights.”

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When is the next UK travel update?

12:39 , Lucy Thackray

Going on the government’s stated goal of updating the UK’s “traffic light” travel lists every three weeks, the next update to the travel rules is likely to be today or tomorrow, 15 or 16 September, with changes likely coming into effect at 4am the following Monday (20 September).

Amendments to the lists are informed by public health advice, including the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s assessment of the latest data.

“These regular review points will allow the government to balance helping the public to understand Covid requirements when travelling to England while allowing us to constantly evaluate the risk for different countries,” said the Department for Transport (DfT) on launching the system.

Here’s everything we know about the next travel update so far:

When is the next UK travel update?

Your top travel questions answered by a Covid data expert

11:57 , Lucy Thackray

Ahead of the next traffic light travel announcement, Covid data expert Tim White has been analysing the latest information from genomic sequencing records held by GISAID, the worldwide database, with a focus on variants of concern.

At The Independent’s Ask Me Anything event yesterday, he answered 15 of the top reader travel queries on subjects from holidaying in Thailand to getting married in Greece.

To honeymooning couples with an eye on the Maldives, White said: “It’s my number one tip [for removal from the red list]. If Maldives is not removed then there is something severely wrong with the system and the people making decisions.”

Get Tim’s insider info on what could happen next for travel this autumn and winter by reading his answers here:

15 of your urgent Covid data travel questions answered by expert Tim White

Airlines and travel firms face millions in claims after applying wrong passport rules

11:39 , Lucy Thackray

Thousands of people have been wrongly denied boarding holiday flights to the EU because the government is misrepresenting post-Brexit rules on the validity of British passports.

The only tests on the day you travel:

  • Was your passport issued in the past 10 years?

  • Does it have three months validity remaining after your intended return date?

These conditions are independent of each other.

That means you could happily go to Europe today with a passport issued on 16 September 2011 valid to 16 March 2022.

Britain's biggest holiday company, Tui, has now changed its policy to adhere to European Union law, not the UK’s misinterpretation of it.

Full story here:

Airlines and travel firms face millions in claims after applying wrong passport rules

British Airways heads for the Azores – but not ‘Concorde Island'

11:26 , Lucy Thackray

BA appears to be continuing its expansion into holiday routes, with two new flights to mid-Atlantic islands planned for summer 2022 – according to London Air Travel.

The aviation website has tweeted: “British Airways is to launch a new routes in 2022 from London Heathrow Terminal 5 to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island and Terceira Island in the Azores.”

The Independent has asked BA for confirmation.

The Azores featured on Concorde’s route map in the 1970s, when Santa Maria island was a refuelling stop for Air France’s supersonic jet between Paris and Caracas in Venezuela.

In 2016, The Independent celebrated the arrival of Ryanair in the Azores:

Azores budget break: Cheap flights from Britain make Sao Miguel the

Holiday prices to Dubai and Malta soar but some Spanish bargains available

11:02 , Simon Calder

Average package holiday prices to Malta are currently 29 per cent higher than before the coronavirus pandemic, while costs to Dubai are 24 per cent.

The figures have been released by TravelSupermarket ahead of the expected changes to UK government travel restrictions.

The holiday price comparison site has looked at how prices in September and October 2021 have changed relative to 2019 – the last full year before the Covid crisis.

Prices to Spain’s Costa de Almeria – which includes resorts such as Aguadulce, Mojacar Pueblo and Roquetas de Mar – have fallen by an average of 38 per cent.

Emma Coulthurst from TravelSupermarket said: “The Spanish Costas are the place to go if you want to get a low-priced end of summer season break.

“You won’t get the strong heat of the summer but you can still get 11 hours of sunshine and highs of 22C.”

Some one-week holidays are said to be available for £150 per person. But all arrivals to the UK must also pay for multiple tests – typically costing £100.

Scrap amber list and testing for the double jabbed, says Heathrow boss

10:36 , Lucy Thackray

Heathrow Airport has called on the government to scrap all testing for double vaccinated travellers as it struggles to recover from business lost to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK’s largest airport has also urged authorities to remove the amber list and instead create a “safe but simple two-tier system” comprised of just a green and a red list.

Under these proposals, fully vaccinated arrivals from green list locations would no longer be required to take a test, whereas those who are not fully vaccinated would need to take lateral flow tests pre-departure and post-arrival.

Only those who test positive would need to take a more expensive PCR test.

Read the full story:

Scrap amber list and testing for the double jabbed, says Heathrow boss

Two out of five former rail passengers stay away from trains

10:00 , Simon Calder

Rail use in the UK is still well below pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT).

In the week from 7 September, passenger numbers averaged 60.3 per cent of weekly numbers prior to the Covid crisis.

While some train operators report a rebound in leisure travellers to pre-pandemic levels, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) says only one-third of commuter journeys are currently being made.

The rail industry has launched a marketing campaign to try to persuade passengers back on board – assuring them that public transport is safe. But some train operators, as well as the London Underground, are still cordoning off parts of carriages as a Covid precaution.

What time is the travel ‘traffic light' update expected today?

09:26 , Lucy Thackray

Three weeks after the last update to the UK’s “traffic light” travel lists, the government is expected to announce the latest changes to the green, amber and red lists today or tomorrow, 15 or 16 September.

There is no clarity on the exact timing of the announcement by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, but it is expected to be on either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

However, past experience - coupled with the health secretary and Prime Minister both hinting at larger changes to the UK’s travel system in the past 24 hours - suggests we cannot be sure there will be significant changes to the lists.

Read the full story:

What time is the travel announcement expected today?

Qantas will restart Lon-Aus flights - but only if quarantine is eased, says exec

09:02 , Lucy Thackray

Direct flights between the UK and Australia will be restored only if Australia’s quarantine rules are eased by the government in Canberra, a Qantas executive has said.

The airline has put its first flights from London to Sydney, Perth and Melbourne on sale from 19 December. A return from Heathrow to Sydney via Singapore, departing on the first date and returning early in the New Year, costs almost £2,000.

But Stephanie Tully, the airline’s chief customer officer, warned that if a two-week hotel quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Australia was still required, “we will not get the demand we need to operate”. She said that testing should be sufficient.

She also said that only Sydney and Melbourne may appear on the international route network initially if the governments in Queensland and Western Australia keep their state borders closed.

Read the full story:

Qantas will fly from London only if quarantine is eased, says airline executive

Anyone getting on a plane ‘should be vaccinated’ says Fauci

08:03 , Lucy Thackray

The chief medical adviser to the US president, Dr Anthony Fauci, has said in an interview that he would advise all travellers to get vaccinated before flying.

“I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people that you should be vaccinated,” Fauci told US digital news outlet The Skimm.

US authorities have stopped short of implementing a vaccine mandate for flyers, though all travellers must wear masks in airports and on planes or risk a $500-minimum fine.

Fauci also responded to rapper Nicki Minaj’s tweet suggesting that the Covid-19 vaccines could cause impotence in men.

“The answer to that, Jake, is a resounding no. There’s no evidence that it happens,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

New airline promises customers a 'hefty dose of love’

07:39 , Simon Calder

A new Canadian airline has revealed an extraordinary business plan – with touches of philosophy – as it launches flights from Montreal to Mexico.

OWG, whose name stands for Off We Go, promises to “offer its travellers an experience that is the complete opposite of low-cost flights”.

The carrier says: “Our vision is to give you a hefty dose of love.”

It involves “gathering travellers into three specific aircraft zones to provide a customised experience”.

“Singles will have the chance to travel in the High Zone, couples will be pampered in the Love Zone and families will be able to meet in the Heart Zone,” OWG says.

The only clue about what happens in any of these is that the Heart Zone is “located at the rear of the aircraft closer the lavatories and flight attendants”.

Other airlines champion their reliability or route network. OWG promises philosophy on the flight path to Mexico.

“Through this journey, you will not only discover a place, a different way of life and new faces, but you will also discover yourself.”

Read the full story:

OMG: it’s OWG. With the ‘High Love’ Experience

Good morning

07:37 , Lucy Thackray

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be sharing all the latest updates.

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