Categories
Travel

Airlines are burning through cash at £400,000 per minute amid coronavirus pandemic

In the time it takes today’s sole British Airways departure from London to Los Angeles to reach California, the world’s airlines will have lost a quarter of a billion pounds.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, BA had planned to dispatch three wide-bodied jets on the route from Heathrow to LAX today. The two Boeing 747s and one Airbus A380 would have carried around 1,000 people between them.

Instead, like other airlines, British Airways has seen its passenger numbers collapse.

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Today’s service between the UK and the US west coast is flown by a Boeing 787 with just 214 seats. The 11-hour, 10-minute journey is set to lose the airline yet more cash.

The London-Los Angeles link is running as part of a skeleton service on a few key routes, for the benefit of essential workers, important family or business journeys and travellers trying to get home; some US-government organised rescue flights are operating from Europe and elsewhere to Heathrow because London has the best remaining transatlantic connections.

For today’s flight, a late-booking passenger would expect to pay around £1,750 one way – but BA is charging a low one-way fare of £633, which is unprecedented in the 21st century.

IAG, the parent company of British Airways, has cut capacity by 90 per cent in April and May; agreed that its 4,000 pilots will take four weeks of unpaid leave in April and May; and furloughed 30,000 cabin crew and ground-based staff.

Most of the BA fleet is in storage, at locations including Cardiff, Bournemouth, Chateauroux in France and Teruel in Spain.

But the airline must keep paying the aircraft leases – which even on the narrow-bodied Airbus A320 can amount to £250,000 per month.

This pattern is being repeated around the world.

The Independent has analysed figures from the International Air Traffic Association (Iata) and can reveal that airlines are collectively losing cash at £400,000 per minute, based on the fall in cash reserves per week.

An announcement on Tuesday evening by the German national airline, Lufthansa, indicated pessimism about the future: “It will take several months until the global travel restrictions are completely lifted and years until the worldwide demand for air travel returns to pre-crisis levels.”

“Lufthansa will be reducing capacity at its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich.

The carrier is to permanently ground more than 20 wide-bodied jets.

Many aircraft are expected to be flown to locations such as Lourdes in France and Victorville in California to be stripped for parts.

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Travel

Tui won’t have beach holidays until mid-May and no cruises until June

Europe’s biggest holiday company has announced all its beach holidays up to and including 14 May have been cancelled.

Tui will now have to refund hundreds of thousands of customers.

Its Marella cruise subsidiary will not operate until at least June.

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The company said: “Customers who have a booking impacted by these changes will be able to amend their holiday to any other TUI package holiday on sale for free via manage my booking on our website.”

But holidaymakers who booked through a travel agent have been told to wait for the company to contact them.

Tui said: “Our customer teams are working extremely hard to contact everyone affected, however changes in ways of working and the closure of our retail stores have impacted the speed at which this can happen.”

For tour operators, the main summer holiday season begins in May.

But the coronavirus pandemic has made leisure travel impossible – with little indication of when holidays might be possible.

The Foreign Office has warned against non-essential travel abroad “indefinitely”. Some holidaymakers with bookings for the summer peak have concluded they will be able to get full refunds.

But instead, the decision not to specify an end date means travel firms can legitimately cancel on the day – on the basis that the advice could be lifted at any time.

In practice, holiday companies are issuing “rolling cancellations”: picking a date they hope to start up on, and then contacting customers whose trips have been cancelled.

On Tuesday, Jet2 – second to Tui in the UK for passenger numbers – said it would resume operations on 17 June.

But Tui is more optimistic, setting a date for resumption five weeks from now, and saying: “We, like other travel companies, want to travel again as soon as we possibly can and will do so in line with government advice.”

Tui had planned to launch a river cruise operation in March, but this has now been deferred until 26 November.

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Transport

Class actions filed against United over refunds

United Airlines faces two federal class actions related to
its handling of refund requests during the Covid-19 crisis. 

Both cases were filed Monday in the Northern District of
Illinois, where United’s home base of Chicago is located. 

The carrier has faced scrutiny over the past month for
changing its refund policy repeatedly. Under Transportation Department
regulations, a flyer is entitled to a refund if the airline cancels his or her
flight and the customer chooses not to rebook or accept a voucher. 

One of the cases was brought by Vermont resident John Compo,
who paid $1,051 for a roundtrip ticket to New Zealand for travel beginning
April 6. After United emailed Compo on April 3 that his flight had been canceled,
Compo requested a refund via phone and online but was denied, the suit says. 

The other case was brought by Minnesota resident Jacob
Rudolph, who spent $1,521 on three tickets from Hilton Head, S.C., to
Minneapolis for travel on April 4. The flight was eventually canceled, the
lawsuit says.  However, over the course
of March 31 to April 2, United refused Rudolph’s refund requests.

The Compo lawsuit references United’s changing refund policy.
Until March 6, United’s stated policy was to provide refunds for travel delayed
more than two hours. Over the next eight days, the carrier changed its policy
three times, ultimately landing on one in which international ticket holders
could only get a refund if travel was delayed more than six hours. The policy
also stated that United would provide only a voucher until 12 months after the
originally scheduled flight. Only then would unused voucher holders be able to
get a refund. 

“In other words, rather than make its customers whole in
this time of need by refunding them monies they paid for flights they will
never take, United has elected to force its customers to provide it with a
one-year, interest free loan,” the suit says. 

The Rudolph case also references United’s repeated policy
changes. (United’s latest policy has done away with the 12-month wait period.
The carrier now says it will refund tickets to for flyers whose domestic or
international travel has been delayed more than six hours.)

In the Compo suit, the attorneys note that on April 3, the
Department of Transportation issued an enforcement order stating that airlines
continue to be required to issue prompt refunds when flights are canceled. 

The suits accuse United of fraud, unjust enrichment and
violations of state consumer protection acts. They ask the court to require
United to refund ticket holders, pay interest and to pay additional punitive
damages. 

The Compo case defines eligible class action participants as
anyone in the U.S. who purchased United tickets on or after Feb. 29 and either
sought to cancel their flights or had their flights canceled. The Rudolph suit
defines eligible participants as anyone in the U.S. who purchased United
tickets for flights from March 1 and who were either refused a refund or who
will seek a refund in the future. 

In an email, United spokeswoman Leslie Scott said that since
the start of the Covid-19 crisis, the carrier has implemented new policies
allowing customers to rebook travel or cancel trips and receive a voucher
without a fee. 

“Eligible travelers on domestic flights — and customers
with international tickets — can request a refund on United.com or may call
our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to
their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United
schedule reductions related to Covid-19,” she said.

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Travel

Here’s How to Take Over 20 of the Best Disney World Rides Virtually


If you’re a die-hard Disney fan looking for some good news, look no further. For the first time ever in Disney’s history, all Disney parks around the world have been closed indefinitely since March 16. Luckily, we can still have some fun on the best Disney World rides virtually.  

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How can you take the virtual rides?

Have you ever wished you could take your favorite Disney World rides without having to wait in long lines? Thanks to the YouTube account Virtual Disney World, you can do it now. The channel has been offering virtual reality rides through 360-degree videos since 2016. All you need to do is click on the page and you can take as many rides as you want for free. If you want to make things even more fun, you’ll be happy to know that the rides are compatible with a virtual reality headset or a smartphone with a headset. You’ll have fun learning these 23 mindblowing facts about Disneyland.

The channel has over 62,000 subscribers to date and includes rides from Disney World’s Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Universal and more. Each video takes you through one ride from start to finish—no waiting in long lines or travel necessary! If you’re looking for more fun Disney-related activities you can do at home, try to see if you can spot all the hidden Mickeys in Disney World’s new ride.

What are some of the rides that you can take?

Thanks to Virtual Disney World, you can take rides from all of the four theme parks in Disney World, as well as Disneyland rides, and rides that no longer exist. For those who may wonder: Here’s the difference between Disneyland and Disney World.

These are the most popular attractions for viewers:

The Slinky Dog Dash from Disney’s Hollywood Studios features a two-minute roller coaster ride.

The Frozen Ever After from Disney’s Epcot theme park is a song-filled journey in a slow-moving boat ride through short waterfalls.

Expedition Everest—Legend of the Forbidden Mountain from Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is a race through the Himalayas on a speeding train.

Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid, which is at Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park, recreates scenes from the classic film.

Are there other virtual Disney offerings?

While the YouTube channel offering these rides is not officially affiliated with Disney, there are other virtual attractions that Disney is offering until the parks open again. If you’re looking to add some creativity into your day, you can watch a complete series of how-to tutorials on drawing Disney characters. Need some magic in your life? You can view Disney’s Magic Happens Parade online, and experience the magic without having to stake out the “perfect spot” to see the parade. You can also take a virtual, behind-the-scenes tour of Walt Disney’s Imagineering, which is a very rare treat. Or, you can join in this magical moment as the Dapper Dans, an iconic part of the Main Street, U.S.A. experience at Disneyland Resort, give a video-performance to bring some joy into people’s lives.

The post Here’s How to Take Over 20 of the Best Disney World Rides Virtually appeared first on Reader’s Digest.

WATCH: Disney safari cast member ‘works from home’ with stuffed animals (provided by USA TODAY)


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    2021 cruise bookings are on the rise despite coronavirus chaos
    The cruise line industry has taken a major beating due to covid-19, still analysts say the number of bookings for 2021 cruises have increased since this time last year.

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    Two Holland America cruise ships with coronavirus patients aboard were finally allowed to dock at a port near Fort Lauderdale, resolving a days-long impasse that drew the attention of President Donald Trump. Jillian Kitchener has more.

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Travel

Holidays: Virgin offers cheap post-lockdown flights to the US – how much are they?

Holidays and flights have been cancelled, suspended or re-scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. As travel restrictions continue, it is unclear when Britons will be allowed to leave the country for a well-deserved holiday. An expert even recently suggested that holidays to Spain for Britons could be cancelled until September.

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Cases across the world have now hit a massive 1.3million with almost 80,000 deaths.

The UK’s death toll has hit 6,159 with total cases reaching more than 55,000.

But despite the lockdown continuing until further notice for many, airlines are still enticing holidaymakers with some incredibly cheap deals.

If you’ve ever fancied a trip to the US, some people may think about whether to book some flights as prices plummet.

Virgin Atlantic, Delta and KLM are offering some very affordable flight fares between the UK and Boston, Massachusetts.

The flights are for late this year and early 2021.

However, the cheapest flights might mean that many Britons will have to take a bit of a detour up north to Scotland.

But for a £186 return in early 2021, one could fly to the US from Edinburgh (EDI).

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There are also cheap fares from London Heathrow (LHR) to Boston if Scotland is a bit far away.

Most of these deals are through Virgin Atlantic but include travel with KLM or Delta.

If the individual books with KLM, they do have to stop in Amsterdam for a connecting flight.

Often, waiting times aren’t too long though.

If they book with Virgin, there is a flexible policy for flights until December 31 which allows them to rebook the travel until April 30, 2021.

To book the flights, the person can go to Google Flights and type in the preferred city they would like to travel from and Boston as their destination of choice.

Meanwhile, currently, flights from London Heathrow to New York’s John F Kennedy airport, are costing just over £200 with Virgin and KLM.

Last month the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) urged all Britons to avoid non-essential travel worldwide for 30 days, however, officials took a further step this weekend.

In a social media video update, the FCO changed the 30-day period to an indefinite amount of time.

A tweet posted on Saturday night reads: “Travel update Airplane: The Foreign Office indefinitely advises against all non-essential global travel.”

Money expert Martin Lewis has offered advice on travel insurance amid coronavirus.

He said: “Travel insurance will pay out but only until the 16th April.”

Any holidays after this date he explained, “I strongly suspect it will be extended beyond that point but we don’t know exactly when it will be extended to.”

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Cruises

How Suppliers Are Preparing for the Travel Comeback

In preparation for the recovery of the travel industry once the coronavirus is surpassed, suppliers are debuting an array of incentives and special offers to help agents jumpstart their sales.

“What we have really been seeing from suppliers is their flexibility with policies, and adding incentives to get clients to go for future travel credits instead of canceling everything outright for a refund,” said Hannah Nowicki of Sunset Travel & Cruise. “For example, many large suppliers are offering vouchers for 125 percent of the trip cost for future travel. Cruise lines are also doing the same with incentivizing additional onboard credits.”

She noted that she is also “seeing extended ‘travel dates’ offered by suppliers. Many are now offering December 2021 as the expiration for future travel credits. This is huge,” she said. “Incentivizing these future travel credits for clients not only helps them with extra perks, but it also protects our commission. It really is a win-win all around.”

“The ‘battle cry’ of all cruise lines is under the generic umbrella of ‘Cruising With Confidence,’” said James Ferguson of Travel Edge, adding that in some cases lines are 50 percent off the cruise fare for the second guest.”

Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel added: “Vendors are also providing webinars and online training about products to recommend once the pandemic subsides.”

Here is a handful of supplier offers that have been recently unveiled:

Playa Hotels & Resorts introduced a “Once-In-A-Lifetime-Savings” plan, which provides access to the company’s lowest-ever rates with a 100 percent refund cancellation window.

Vacationers who canceled stays at the Curacao Marriott Beach due to the coronavirus can rebook with such perks as $100 food-and-beverage credits and complimentary cancellations up to 24 hours before arrival.

As reported, Regency Seven Seas Cruises debuted “Regent Reassurance” for trips scheduled now through September 30, 2020. Travelers who have paid in full have the option to cancel up to 48 hours prior to sailing and receive a 100 percent future cruise credit, which can be applied to any new booking within one year on any future Regent voyage sailing between now and December 31, 2022.

AmaWaterways unveiled “Travel Waiver Plus, which provides cancellations for any reason and includes future cruise credits covering cancellation penalties.

Crystal implemented a temporary cancellation policy that enables guests to cancel up to seven days prior to sailing, along with 100 percent future cruise credit on its ocean, river, yacht and expedition sailings.

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Categories
Transport

On Average, US Airlines Have Enough Cash to Survive 8 Months

Time continues to be of the essence for virtually every business affected by the global coronavirus pandemic, and especially critical for a U.S. aviation industry that is facing the potential loss of several whole airlines.

According to a new report issued by financial services firm Raymond James and summarized by the aviation blog The Points Guy, domestic carriers have, on average, enough cash on hand to survive about eight months before they face bankruptcy or, worse, insolvency.

For some, it’s a little longer. Regional carrier SkyWest can go almost a full year with what it has in the bank.

For others, it’s a more pressing issue. According to Raymond James, American has enough cash to only last about 4.8 months. American is carrying the most debt among U.S. airlines.

Still, it’s better than the global average.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates global carriers have an average of three months of cash on hand. The Points Guy noted that IATA has previously said that nearly half of airlines could collapse or consolidate without government support.

“At times like this, it’s actually balance sheets that are critical to survival,” said IATA chief economist Brian Pearce during a press briefing in March.

What airlines need is revenue, but until the virus is completely obliterated, it appears that demand for travel will continue to be decreased. The Raymond James estimates do not include monies from the CARES Act, the stimulus package signed by President Trump last month that includes $25 billion in grants for airlines.

Here are the Raymond James estimates for each airline:

—SkyWest: 11.8 months of implied cash on hand

—Allegiant: 10.6 months

—Southwest: 9.4 months

—Spirit: 8.8 months

—JetBlue: 8.7 months

—Alaska: 6.6 months

—Mesa: 6.3 months

—Delta: 6.2 months

—United: 5.7 months

—American: 4.8 months

Raymond James calculated “implied months of cash on hand” by analyzing each carriers’ cash and credit reserves, and estimated cash burn. The calculations do not include any possible government funds from the CARES Act.

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Cruises

CDC Issues New Guidelines for Cruise Lines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidelines for cruise lines in the time of coronavirus (COVID-19), recommending that cruise travelers with no or mild symptoms disembark as quickly and safely as possible at U.S. ports of entry.

As of April 4, CDC says that cruise lines must be responsible for transporting passengers directly to their homes via chartered or private transportation as commercial flights and public transportation can’t be used.

For disembarking cruise ship passengers who feel well, CDC recommends requesting a face mask or cloth face covering from their cruise line and keeping their face covered from the time they leave their cabin to the time they arrive home. “To the extent possible, do not remove the face covering until you get to your final destination,” CDC said.

“CDC realizes that it might be confusing for travelers when recommendations change during the COVID-19 pandemic response. The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and globally is constantly changing. We will continue to evaluate and update our recommendations for returning cruise ship travelers as the situation evolves,” the agency said.

According to CDC, cruise lines are responsible for transporting all ill or infected patients and communicating with the CDC Quarantine Station along with state and local health departments as well as arranging chartered or private transportation that can be properly sanitized for disembarking travelers.

Cruise companies are also advised to provide procedural/surgical masks, cloth face coverings or non-medical masks such as a bandanna to all passengers and crew and have them wear it during disembarkation; transport to and during flights and during ground transportation to their final destination.

“This will, unfortunately, result in further delays in disembarkation and onward travel for many guests as we work through this complex, challenging and unfortunate situation,” Princess Cruises said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We express continued gratitude to our guests for their patience and understanding as we work to adapt to these new requirements.”

Cruise lines around the world have extended temporary suspensions of operations into May amid unprecedented travel restrictions and slumping demand. Nonetheless, some unfortunate passengers remain stranded at sea as local governments turn them away.

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Travel

Airline mechanic reveals simple reason for delays – they aren’t always fixing the plane

Passengers sometimes find themselves faced with long delays that leave them sitting on the tarmac for hours at a time. Often, this is due to a mechanical issue prior to taking off which requires the help of a mechanic.

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While the lengthy weight is often due to the problem being resolved, it turns out the fix might not be as long as the wait denotes.

An anonymous airline mechanic, with experience working for a number of carriers, revealed in a Reddit forum the truth about what they’re really doing while passengers wait.

The mechanic wrote: “Most of your delay is spent waiting on me to do all the paperwork to clear the aircraft or for me to finish the other seven calls I’m out on to get to your plane.”

Though the problem will be fixed if the plane can not fly safely with the error, it seems sometimes a quick fix is lengthened simply by admin necessities.

“If your flight has a maintenance delay and there is no on station mechanics for that carrier I get called. If it’s a quick fix, I fix it. If not we check to see if it can be deferred to get fixed later,” explains the mechanic.

The mechanic also pointed out that safety is paramount, and though delays or cancelled flights may be a headache for passengers, they are often the only option.

“There is also constant pressure on both me and the pilots to clear or fly aircraft that have some fairly significant problems,” they continue.

“I have airlines try to get me to sell some pretty sketchy stuff to the pilots to get them to fly and avoid a costly delay.

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“I have no problems telling a pilot to call his controllers/dispatchers and tell them to f*** off if I’m not comfortable with whatever concoction of deferral action I was asked to perform.

“Don’t get me wrong, the airlines would never willingly fly an unsafe aircraft. But if there is say an engine vibration that is just right at a hair under the limit they will fly it.

“If the oil is super low but servicing it will cause a delay-service it at the next stop.

“If the pilot encounters something at altitude that I can’t duplicate on the ground-sign it off and see if it happens again.

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“Those are the ones I usually push back on depending what it is.”

While mechanical issues may sound scary, they are often just basic servicing needs for the plane to fly.

Some of the most common mechanical issues include aircraft parking issues, problems with water drainage systems during the winter months, contamination of the air conditioning system, issues with engine fan blades and fuel contamination.

Along with mechanical issues, some of the most common reasons for delay include air traffic control measures, adverse weather, strikes, connecting passengers or bags, security clearance and weight restrictions.

According to the Bureau of Statistics, about 20 percent of all flights are delayed by 15 minutes or more.

If passengers face a delay that is the airline’s fault they may be entitled to compensation under the EC261/2004 Regulation.

Mostly this depends on the length of the delay, the flights predicted journey time and the reason for the delay.

Compensation can range from monetary value to vouchers for food and drinks. 

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Categories
Travel

Pound to euro exchange rate: GBP growth cut short as Boris Johnson’s health deteriorates

After suffering a drop yesterday things began to look up for sterling as the day progressed, advancing against the euro. However, the growth of 0.25 percent soon came to an abrupt halt following the news that the Prime Minister’s health was worsening due to coronavirus.

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A Downing Street spokesperson confirmed that Boris Johnson had been moved to intensive care last night after being admitted to hospital for worsening symptoms.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will now stand-in for the Prime Minister.

A No10 spokesman said: “Since Sunday evening, the Prime Minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistence symptoms of coronavirus.

“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the Prime Minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital.

“The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is the First Secretary of State, to deputise for him where necessary.

“The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks to all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.”

The news had an instant knock-on effect for the pound, which had previously been gaining ground amid expert comment that the infection rates of the virus appeared to be slowing on a global scale.

The pound is currently trading at a rate of 1.1336 against the euro according to Bloomberg at the time of writing.

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Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk Michael Brown, Currency Expert at Caxton FX said: “Sterling advanced against the euro on Monday, adding around 0.25 percent, as risk appetite broadly improved amid tentative signs that coronavirus infection rates may be slowing around the world.

“The pound’s gains were, however, pared after news of PM Johnson’s move to intensive care broke late last night.

“Today, investors will continue to pay close attention to the PM’s health, and to the progress of the coronavirus pandemic around the world.”

Along with causing chaos in the medical world, the virus has forced the closure of borders and put a stop of travel on a worldwide scale.

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  • Coronavirus holidays: UK domestic tourism faces losses amid pandemic

Over the weekend the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office changed its travel warning from a 30-day period to an indefinite period.

The FCO is now advising people to avoid “all but essential travel” until further notice, a devastating decision for the travel industry, and one that may concern holidaymakers.

For those who have already purchased their travel money, it may be best to hold onto it for future travel.

Many bureau de changes have closed their doors amid the pandemic, making it hard to find the best rates.

The Post Office warned that the ability to purchase Travel Money online from the Post Office website and the use of its branch pre-order service are now suspended.

“Both services will remain suspended whilst strict self-isolation measures remain in place,” said the Post Office in a statement.

However, travel money cards will remain active, customers can transfer the money back to Pound Sterling and continue to use the card during the pandemic.

For those who do not have a travel money card, it may be best to hold onto any foreign currency for now.

Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of Equals (formerly known as FairFX), said: “If they can, holidaymakers might want to keep hold of their currency until their next trip and use it then.”

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