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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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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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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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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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How to tour a New Zealand vineyard from the comfort of your couch

Long summer afternoons are made for platters and tasting flights in our award-winning local vineyards. And lockdown doesn’t mean losing out. Around the country, vineyards and wine regions offer virtual tours, fast deliveries and online tasting to go with your purchases. Just pick a region (or two!), and enjoy an afternoon supping world-class wine on the couch.

Fancy a little history with your tasting? Only half an hour west of Auckland, historic and unique Kumeu offers a cluster of family-owned vineyards renowned for their chardonnay and pinot noir.

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Settled by Dalmatian families in the early 1900s, the area was the centre of New Zealand’s wine industry a few generations ago. Now the vineyards are working together under the Wineries Out West banner to show Aucklanders that Waiheke isn’t the only gourmet destination on their doorsteps.

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Hand luggage: How to avoid cabin baggage fees – your phone could be the key

Airlines across the world are now enforcing stringent hand luggage policies for passengers. Often this results in travellers unexpectedly being lumped with fees for oversized and overweight bags, some of which have to be checked in at the last minute.

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Of course, the one way to make sure you don’t end up out of pocket is to plan in advance.

Frustratingly, across the board airlines have varying policies, meaning what might be given the green light with one airline, could have costly consequences with another.

Take easyJet, for example, who boasts an unlimited weight allowance and a baggage dimension guide of size 56x45x25cm, including handles and wheels.

In contrast, Irish-carrier Ryanair state customers without priority tickets are only allowed to take either a personal item or a small bag measuring 25 x 40 x 20cm. These items must weigh no more than 10kg.

Nicky Kelvin Director of Content for The Points Guy UK recommending planning ahead.

He says: “Planning ahead, organising what bags you’ll need and purchasing whatever carry-on bags (and hold baggage) you need during booking can help you avoid unwanted additional charges later.

“If you’re planning on getting a new carry-on, we recommend taking your airline’s carry-on measurements along with you so ensure it meets the requirements. That way, you won’t have to pay extra in the long run.”

This can be more difficult if you are making a connection flight with a different airline.

The key here is to be sure of the measurements for the most stringent of the airlines, and ensure your luggage fits the requirements.

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So, how exactly can you measure your luggage?

You can go old school, manually weighing and measuring your bags at home before getting to the airport.

When it comes to measuring your case, be sure to measure the total linear inches of your bag.

As luggage comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, most airlines just give a linear inch guide. Measure the length, height and depth of your bag, being sure to include handles and wheels.

Household scales can be used to weigh smaller bags, meanwhile, there are luggage scales widely available for larger items. These scales simply clip to the handle of your bag and when lifted determine its weight.

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Luckily, in the age of modern technology, you may not even have to pick up a tape measure in order to be sure your bag fits the requirements.

Mobile phone apps such as InTheAir use your phone camera and specialist augmented reality technology to check your bag dimensions are correct for any given airline.

Users can simply select their airline and then use the app to measure up their bag.

“Save the awkward tape measure moments by using augmented reality technology to check bag dimensions relating to the flight you are travelling on, utilising the phone camera,” boasts an InTheAir spokesperson.

Additionally, both easyJet and Ryanair offer their own apps complete with handy bag sizing tools.

Again, both apps do all the work for you, simply using the camera on your phone.

According to easyJet the app is easy to use and allows for last-minute flexibility.

The easyJet website states: “Simply open the app and click on your trip itinerary to find the bag sizing tool. You can then use your mobile phone camera to size your cabin bag.

“If it fits inside the maximum cabin bag dimensions you’re good to go! If it doesn’t fit, don’t worry! You can always add hold luggage quickly and easily through the app.”

What’s more, the airline apps also allow you to check-in, make additional purchases such as food or seat selections, and keep you up to date with flight delays and arrivals.

The only downside of these apps is that they will only work for the associated airline.

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Hand luggage: Always do this with your toiletries to beat cabin baggage liquids rule

Hand luggage for flights comes with all sort of rules that can make packing a bit of a headache. There’s are many things you cannot pack and airlines can be strict with size and weight. One thing all carriers agree on is the liquid limit for carry on baggage.

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Plane passengers are only allowed to take on 100ml of a liquid.

These then need to fit into a small, clear plastic bag for when your hand luggage goes through airport security.

For those who are only taking cabin baggage, sticking to the liquids allowance can be difficult.

Many travellers choose to buy their go-to toiletries in travel size.

However, experts have suggested this is, in fact, a mistake.

American car rental agency company Alamo have shared their packing tips.

They explained that a savvier option is to decant the toiletries you already have into small bottles.

“One hundred millilitres (3 ounces) may be too much product for beauty items such as face wash, moisturiser and cleanser,” explained Alamo.

“All you might need is a pea-size amount.

“Instead of buying travel-size toiletries, use smaller 10ml, 25ml or 50ml containers and decant the exact amount of product you’ll need for your trip.

“This is particularly useful for makeup products such as foundation or concealer.

“You definitely won’t need full sizes for the average vacation.”

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Another top tip is to eschew liquid toiletries altogether and opt for solid equivalents.

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap and makeup can all come in solid versions.

This way you can take as much as you like without having to adhere to the liquids rules.

Alternatively, opt for wipes or powders where you can.

It’s also worth remembering that your hotel may well offer a number of key toiletries.

Jet-setters can check online or even phone up the hotel to find out what is provided.

Flights introduced the hand luggage liquid allowance restrictions back in 2006. It came after British police foiled a terror plot which saw terrorists smuggling explosives.

The incident was the largest terror plot ever discovered in Britain. The terrorists had improvised explosive devices which they had disguised in soft drink bottles.

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Royal travel secrets: Queen’s ‘flirty’ behaviour with shipmen on her first voyage revealed

The Queen is no stranger to world travel, having flown an estimated 42 times around the entire world during her reign. However, it was her first-ever overseas voyages in 1947 that perhaps revealed some of her most unexpected behaviour.

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Channel 4 documentary, The Royal House of Windsor, reveals archived footage of her first overseas journey to South Africa with her father King George VI, the Queen Mother and her sister, Princess Margaret.

As part of a PR move, the Windsors decided to allow the media to cover the voyage in great detail, welcoming onboard BBC Radio as well as a newsreel cameraman.

Thanks to this, footage emerged of the Queen and her sister in a way Britain has never seen them before, exploring their freedom as young women.

“This was the first trip abroad that the princesses had ever made.

“They’d been terribly cosseted, carefully brought up, and now they were getting a taste of freedom,” explains Historian Dr Piers Brendon.

One of the most unexpected, sweet moments shows the 20-year-old Queen playing and almost flirting with some of the young sailors on board.

The documentary states that the two princesses were the only young women on board the ship of around 1,700 young men for around three weeks.

The black and white footage shows the Queen, dressed in a summer dress and sandals, playing what appears to be a game of tag where she dodges some of the shipmen and runs between them.

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A BBC spokesperson describes the scene, saying: “The princesses, for example, are here seen enjoying deck games in company with a number of the ship men. And when I say enjoying a mean just that. Well, you can see for yourselves.”

In an interview for the documentary Historian Sarah Gristwood comments: “You see the princesses playing around with the young officers in a way we almost never actually see. Elizabeth, she’s almost playing like a child.”

Indeed, the Queen herself seemed to be enjoying being in the presence of the men.

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In a letter written to her nanny on February 15, 1947, she wrote: “There are one or two real smashers and I bet you’d have a wonderful time if you were here.”

Along with fun and games, though, the journey would be a huge point of learning for the Queen.

The tour would launch the young Elizabeth onto the world stage as the next in line for the throne.

During the journey, the king took full advantage of this time to instruct his daughter.

Sir Malcolm Ross, Former member of the royal household: “She learnt so much from her father.

“On that long voyage to South Africa, there was an awful lot of sitting beside her father being instructed in the art of kingship or queenship.”

Since then, throughout her 67 years serving the Monarch has been on an impressive 42 expeditions that saw her circle the globe.

The figure was calculated by royal historian Kate Williams who says it was the introduction of air travel that “revolutionised Queen Elizabeth’s role.”

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Travel series: How much does it really cost travel stars to fly around the world?

Ever wanted to be a travel star with your own show? Well, the likes of David Attenborough, Joanna Lumley and Bear Grylls have done it all with their own travel shows being a roaring success. But have you ever wondered how far they travel or how much it costs in flights?

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From city trips to safaris, Shearings has followed the footsteps of multiple infamous television travel stars by looking at how many countries they’ve been to, how many miles they have travelled and the total cost of their trips.

The company has also managed to analyse data from every series to work out what was the most expensive series they have featured in.

David Attenborough

David, 93, has become a national hero after presenting a multitude of programmes over the years.

His career began in the 1950s and has taken him to all seven continents, making him one of the most well-travelled TV travel hosts ever.

His voice has made him an icon with series on both the BBC and Netflix.

David has 45 TV titles, has taken 331 trips in total which could have cost £176,772 in flights over a lifetime and has travelled an impressive 1,918,950 miles.

Bear Grylls

Bear is a retired SAS soldier who has brought both high energy and military skills to the screen.

His career began in the early 2000s where he began showing people on TV how to survive in some of the world’s harshest environments.

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He has 12 TV titles which includes his most expensive series, Man vs Wild.

He has taken 154 trips and travelled 673,884 miles which cost an estimated £58,238 in flights.

Michael Palin

Although less renowned for his travel shows, Michael has had a successful career in travel television which includes his series, Around the World in 80 Days.

More recently, Michael journeyed to the communist country of North Korea where he attempted to uncover the nation’s secrets.

Michael has eight TV titles, has made 99 trips in total and travelled 153,764 miles.

His most expensive series was called Full Circle.

Simon Reeve

Simon’s career began in the early 2000s which saw people fall in love with his boyish charm and enthusiasm.

He spent the majority of his career in the Middle East where he travelled the Silk Road and explored Saudi Arabia.

He has 18 TV titles, made 112 trips abroad, travelled 307,519 miles and spent an estimated £45,207 of airline tickets.

His most expensive series was Tropic of Cancer which can be streamed on BBC iPlayer.

Joanna Lumley

Joanna has been a well-known star since the 1970s but made her first appearance as a documentarian in the early 1990s with a trip to Madagascar.

Like Simon Reeve, she has travelled the length of the Silk Road and covered the plight of Orangutans in Borneo.

She has 14 TV series, has travelled 144,339 miles and made 40 trips abroad which all cost an estimated £13,926 in flights.

Her most expensive series was Joanna Lumley’s Postcards which is available on Dailymotion.

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easyJet refund: How to get refund from easyJet

EasyJet has suspended its service for two months after completing its final rescue flight on Sunday. All cabin crew have been given a leave of absence for this duration. The company wants to reduce £4.5billion in spending, including payments for the new aircraft from Airbus, in response to the drop in demand for air travel amid the coronavirus pandemic. But how do you get a refund?

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Budget airline easyJet has said it will ground the entire fleet for at least two months.

EasyJet has not confirmed a date for restarting commercial flights yet.

Additionally, the airline has said 4,000 of its 9,000 staff members will be furloughed for two months starting from April 1.

The company had already cancelled most services but was running rescue flights to repatriate Britons stranded abroad.

So far, easyJet has flown 650 rescue flights, taking 45,000 people home, but has said it will continue to work with government bodies to assist rescue flights as requested.

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The airline said: “As a result of the unprecedented travel restrictions imposed by governments in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the implementation of national lockdowns across many European countries, easyJet has, today, fully grounded its entire fleet of aircraft.

“Over recent days easyJet has been helping to repatriate customers, having operated more than 650 rescue flights to date, returning home more than 45,000 customers.

“The last of these rescue flights were operated on Sunday, March 29. We will continue to work with government bodies to operate additional rescue flights as requested.

“At this stage there can be no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights.

“We will continuously evaluate the situation based on regulations and demand, and will update the market when we have a view.”

The news from easyJet came as regional airline Loganair said airlines were unlikely to survive without a government bailout.

Loganair boss Jonathan Hinkles told the BBC any airline saying it could survive without government help “would probably be lying”.

EasyJet said on Monday it would not need a bailout.

The airline said: “We have no plans currently to ask the government for bespoke support as outlined by the chancellor.”

It added: “To support recovery in the future, we believe that further actions will be needed such as a temporary removal of Aviation Passenger Duty and Air Traffic Control Charges.”

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How to get a refund if you have a flight booked with easyJet

EasyJet flights are cancelled until at least June.

If your flight has been cancelled you are entitled to a full refund to the original form of payment within seven days under EU air passengers’ rights rules.

You may also be entitled to a voucher for the value of their original booking or an alternative flight of the same price.

The airline has said impacted customers will be contacted to discuss their options.

If you are affected, you can contact easyJet yourself, but the airline has warned that customers are likely to experience long wait times due to the massive number of disrupted flights.

The customer service number for easyJet is 0330 365 5000.

EasyJet said: “We are experiencing higher than average wait times so we would thank customers for their patience and assure them that these entitlements will be available long after their cancelled flight has flown.”

You can also manage your booking online using the easyJet website here.

What happens if you have issues getting a refund from easyJet?

If you struggle to reach an agreement, you can escalate any claim to an alternate dispute resolution body.

EasyJet is a member of the Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited group and you can find information on how to start a complaint here.

If you booked a flight through a third part company, you need to contact them regarding a refund or alternative flight.

You can also claim your money back through your credit or debit card provider.

Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.

If you bought a flight using a debit card, you can claim a refund via your bank using the Chargeback scheme, which can be used to reclaim cash for goods and services you did not receive.

Claims apply for purchases made by debit card or by credit card for purchases under £100, but must be within 120 days of the transaction.

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Northern Lights: How to watch the Northern Lights at home in isolation

Coronavirus has left many confined to their homes as the Government continues to impose its stringent lockdown rules. While many people are now deciding to tackle the pile of books next to their beds or movie bucket lists, others are trying to view the world from home. And now, one family has given everyone the opportunity to witness the stunning light show.

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A reindeer-herding family in Finnish Lapland is giving people the chance to watch the show with an aurora live stream every night from their cottage.

Owner and operator of Aurora Holidays Tiina Salonen runs the business with her partner Mika, a Sámi reindeer herder.

The company is based in Utsjoki, a small town in Lapland near the Norwegian-Finland border.

The family currently have no winter guests as the last of them was forced to reschedule until next season.

Their spring tour has also been cancelled which has left the company unsure of how long it will be until the next group of travellers are allowed to arrive in the small town.

The couple had also built a restaurant for their guests which is now unable to operate.

But the couple’s own business is not the only problem.

With the border between Finland and Norway closed, there is no one salmon fishing.

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If the borders remain closed than no fishing licenses can be sold either.

However, the couple have found a new way to connect guests with their scenic hotspot of a hotel.

They are connecting with guests around the world via their live stream of the Northern Lights.

Ms Salonen told the New Zealand Herald: “Some of them have said that they cannot travel, so this is a way to watch them almost like in person.

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“Some followers are our former customers who want to keep watching the place they have visited.

“We have got a nice group of people that regularly come to spend time in the chat.”

The live stream runs 24/7 so anyone can have a look what is going on in Utsjoki.

But watchers should be aware, the aurora is not always visible so it is advisable to connect at night when the lights are making quite the show.

Ms Salonen added: ”But if the activity gets very strong, unfortunately some of the lights move overhead or to the other side, so that we can not see them in the stream.

“But here the lights usually move a lot, so it often comes back again and moves around.

“So a good chair and patience is the key.”

Soon, the Northern Lights will not be visible as the northern hemisphere begins to warm up.

But instead of stopping the live stream, Ms Salonen hopes to keep the live stream going so people can experience the summer solstice where people can see the midnight sun.

She added: “Many people don’t even know about the midnight sun and I am sure it will be interesting for many.”

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